Posted by Doug Turetsky, March 19, 2009
Each year, as part of the city’s budget process, the 59 community boards are asked to rank the most important services in their districts. For fiscal year 2010, community boards could rank the importance of 90 services provided by 24 public agencies. The services to rank ranged from sidewalk repair to child care to trash collection. The community board priorities are then published in a little-known report called the “Community Board Service Program Rankings.”
So what are the most important services to the 48 community boards that participated in this year’s report? Topping the list is “services for the elderly”—up from sixth last year. Number two is “parks maintenance,” which was also second last year. Third is “after school/summer school programs” and fourth “youth development services,” which frequently overlap with after-school related activities. After-school and youth development services were tied for third last year.
The report also identified the priorities by borough. Services for the elderly are among the top three priorities for each of the boroughs except Staten Island, where it ranked 12th. Parks maintenance is among the top four priorities in each of the boroughs except Manhattan, where it ranked eighth. The ranking of after school and youth development services are more of a mix among the boroughs, though youth development is tops in Brooklyn and after school is number one in the Bronx and second in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
How did these top priorities fare in the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget for the upcoming fiscal year? Well, funding for senior centers is facing a $5.3 million cut, making the total budget for the centers $86.5 million next year. It is not clear yet how services will be affected, whether senior centers will have to reduce the number of people served or eliminate programs.
The parks department budget includes a proposed reduction in spending on maintenance and operations, which would drop from $244.1 million this year to $222.5 million in fiscal year 2010. About 90 percent of the parks department’s maintenance and operations budget goes to taking care of neighborhood parks.
After-school programs are also facing the budget ax. The budget plan includes the elimination of 91 Out-of-School Time programs serving 10,750 kids to save $6.1 million. Because of this and other budgetary changes, the number of youth served by Out-of-School Time programs is expected to drop from roughly 80,000 last school year to 56,000 in the upcoming year.
Senior services, parks maintenance, and youth programs have long been a City Council priority, with proposed cuts restored—sometimes with additional funds—when the budget is adopted. But given the city’s fiscal turmoil and the level of budget cuts in many other programs, there’s no guarantee for the year ahead.