Bryan Virasami, with Wil Cruz and Dan Janison. Newsday. 4/15/2005.
Affluent New Yorkers should do more to finance public schools and the city should get more cops on the streets, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller proposed yesterday in his formal response to the mayor's budget plan.
Miller focused largely on education, taxes and $276 million worth of restorations in budget cuts proposed in Michael Bloomberg's 2006 plan.
Miller, who is seeking the Democratic nod for mayor and will be forced from office by term limits in December, made his last budget response as speaker during a Red Room presentation at City Hall yesterday.
His top proposal is the personal tax surcharge, he said, which would collect $400 million from an estimated 25,000 New Yorkers who earn $500,000 or more per year. The funds would be dedicated to education programs - such as making classes smaller - an issue he's touted in campaign speeches.
"Every parent knows that the quality of their children's education will be improved if there are fewer kids in the class and their teacher has an opportunity to provide them with individual attention," Miller said.
The plan, which needs state approval, would serve as a "down payment" by the city toward the billions that a judge has ordered be spent on the city's public schools in coming years as a result of a lawsuit won by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
In a statement, Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Bloomberg, dismissed the speaker's ideas, arguing that the mayor already made a similar pitch in Albany in January. He added that the speaker's proposal is unrealistic.
"Now that Albany has passed their budget, the speaker appears to be a little late to the dance," Barowitz said.
Miller also wants to hire 1,000 new cops over the next few years in order to slash the estimated $400 million in overtime in 2005. The estimated cost in the budget is $11 million.
During a City Council hearing, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said more cops won't necessarily mean less overtime. He said overtime often goes to cops working on investigations.
"When you pay overtime, you're paying officers for what they're doing at that point in time. If you increase your head count, you're paying for the whole array of benefits and pensions, that sort of thing," Kelly said last month.
Miller's proposed budget, as expected, restores cuts to several programs for a variety of educational needs, social services and health issues.
It includes $35 million for libraries, $25 million to the City University of New York, $9 million to pay for seasonal workers and tree pruning through the Parks Department, and $22 million for health programs, such as child health clinics and summer school nurses.
His budget also restores the controversial cuts to the weekend senior meals and summer youth jobs programs.
Miller said a new domestic violence initiative would target "hot spots" where such incidences are higher and flood resources into the area.
City council leaders will negotiate with the Bloomberg administration in coming weeks to iron out their differences.