Mayor Bill de Blasio is kicking the city’s coronavirus-induced budget crisis down the road to the next administration by deferring $164 million in union payments until next summer.
The agreement with District Council 37, the city’s second-largest municipal union, allows de Blasio to skip payments due to the union’s employees and retirees from this October through April 2021. Instead, two installments will be made at unspecified dates in fiscal year 2022, according to a City Hall press release.
De Blasio is term-limited and will leave office at the end of 2021 — about halfway through that deadline.
In exchange for the delayed payments, DC37 will be shielded from any layoffs as the mayor has said he may have to put 22,000 municipal workers out of a job to plug the city’s $5 billion budget hole. “Drastic layoffs” are necessary unless the city gets $5 billion in state or federal aid, according to the mayor’s office.
De Blasio has found other so-called savings for this year’s budget by punting on $450 million due to the United Federation of Teachers until 2021.
While the mayor also touted the postponed DC37 payouts as “labor savings,” budget experts said that characterization is misleading.
“You can’t pretend that delays save money,” said Andrew Rein, president of the independent Citizens Budget Commission.
“The city needs to restructure its finances to be stable. We have to find enough savings in this budget so that the money we collect can pay for the services we need,” he explained.
Rein said it was a mistake for de Blasio to rely on an uncertain federal bailout to solve the city’s cash crunch.
“Federal aid, we’re worthy of it. It’s welcome, we should get some. We don’t know when, We don’t know how much.
“Counting on it to solve all of our problems is a dangerous thing because it will take the pressure off doing what we need to do which is restructure the city’s finances so we can have a stable government that we can afford.
“If we don’t find those savings in the right way and in a recurring way that happens year after year, we’re just going to make our problems worse, not better,” Rein said.