PSC President James Davis says CUNY colleges have already suffered immensely from city funding cuts. (Credit: Paul Frangipane)
The PSC joined other community activists on December 11 to denounce the mayor’s latest proposed midyear 5% cuts that would devastate almost all city services, including education at all levels. While the administration claims that the cuts are in response to emergency spending related to the influx of migrants into the city, elected officials and activists claim the drastic, painful cuts are still avoidable.
Outside City Hall with members of the City Council’s progressive caucus, PSC members blasted the mayor’s proposed cuts. “Enough with the fearmongering,” PSC President James Davis told the crowd. “We need care, not cuts.”
CUNY’s campuses are already suffering from city funding cuts, which heavily impact the community colleges, Davis said. Community colleges have already lost 400 full-time faculty and staff because of mayoral cuts, and the new cuts will only make matters worse. “It harms students,” he said.
Kristina Baines, the PSC chapter chair at Guttman Community College, worried that the cuts would acutely impact CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which offers financial support and advisement for students in two-year programs. Guttman, in fact, was modeled on ASAP. “We saw how great ASAP was, so we created an entire college based on how effective it was,” she told Clarion. “More people should have access to these supports, not less.”
In his testimony to the City Council’s finance committee delivered later in the day, Davis said of any cuts to ASAP: “To jeopardize any part of this program is both cruel and shortsighted. We do not have an enrollment crisis at CUNY, we have a retention crisis. The mayoral administration should prioritize programs with a demonstrated record of retaining students through to graduation.”
The cuts dig deep into library and K-12 school budgets in addition to causing pain for CUNY’s community colleges. The proposed cuts to K-12 schools reach nearly $550 million, as Chalkbeat reported: “They will touch a wide range of programs and positions that directly affect students, from the city’s massive free preschool program to community schools that support families with out-of-school needs, to the popular pandemic-era Summer Rising program. A big chunk of this year’s savings will come through a hiring slowdown and the elimination of 432 vacant non-classroom positions, which officials said on Thursday will lead to a combined $157 million in savings.”
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement: “That means 653 schools – 43% of the school system – will now be hit with midyear budget cuts. Class sizes will rise, and school communities will be needlessly damaged.”
He added that the cuts were completely unnecessary. “They are driven by City Hall’s false political narrative that New York City is about to fall off a fiscal cliff,” he said. “Revenues are higher than expected, investment from Albany is up, and reserves are at a near-record high.”
The Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) – a coalition of the city’s public sector unions, including the PSC – expressed its firm opposition to the cuts.
“The proposed cuts stand in stark contrast to the existing facts, rather than what are perennially inflated projections of out-year budget gaps that never materialize,” said the MLC’s chair, Harry Nespoli, in a letter to City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The city ended the most recent fiscal year with a surplus of $5.5 billion. In addition, the city’s reserves are at a near high of $8.3 billion. Moreover, the city is able to tap into state funding of up to an additional $1 billion in reimbursements for costs related to asylum seekers, though it appears that the city has not yet applied for those funds or other outside funds. Instead, the mayor has opted to move ahead with unwarranted budget cuts.”
Other unions are also speaking out about City Hall’s proposed cuts. Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro recently told reporters that he predicts staff shortages in fire responses all around the city if the cuts are implemented.
The citywide outrage against the cuts is palpable. The New York Times reported in December that Mayor Eric Adams has seen “his approval rating plunge to 28 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.” Even New York Post columnists, usually loyal attack dogs for the city’s robber barons against working people, have criticized the mayor’s financial plan.
Add to all that the fact that federal investigators are looking into Mayor Adams’s campaign finances for possible wrongdoing, and the fact that he is being sued for an alleged sexual assault. Adams’s political headaches are compounding, it seems: New York magazine wrote that all these issues have “further motivated those interested in unseating Adams in 2025 and given more reason for those considering a run against him to take a closer look.”
The City Council has moved to offer an alternative financial plan to the mayor’s cuts, which “potentially includes using the city’s robust financial reserves to stave off immediate cutbacks and asking Albany for tax increases next year to bolster the budget,” The City reported.
“It is wrong, it is shameful,” City Council Member Lincoln Restler said of the mayor’s proposal. “We can reverse the cuts today.”
Published: December 20, 2023