Category Archives: Community Boards

Some Community Board Budget Priorities Face Budget Axe, Again

Posted by Eddie Vega, June 4, 2010

As part of the city’s budget process, New York’s 59 Community Boards are provided surveys each year that ask them to rank, by order of importance, government services in their districts. The survey lists 90 services provided by 24 public agencies. This year 46 Community Boards, two less than last year, submitted responses. Some top priorities align with the Mayor’s budget. Most do not. (Click here for the survey.)

While there was some reordering from last year, for example, child protection services jumped from 8th to 4th place, the same items appear in the top 10 priorities for both years. Taking care of the city’s elderly continued to be an important concern for the Community Boards; for the second year in a row, services for the elderly ranked first. Likewise, protecting young people and developing their talents has weighed heavily in the boards’ considerations. Programs and services intended to help young people find jobs and access educational opportunities and to protect children from abuse scored high in the rankings: youth development services, after school/summer school programs, and child protection services, took 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place, respectively. Also important were parks and public safety: parks maintenance (down from last year’s 2nd place finish) and police patrols of public housing and transit along with auxiliary patrols tied for 5th place. (See IBO’s blog About Those Services You Prioritized on last year’s Community Board rankings.)

The surveys also identified the priorities by borough. Services for the elderly were among the top two priorities for each of the boroughs except Staten Island, where it dropped to 14th from 12th place last year. Youth development services were among the top five priorities in each of the boroughs except Staten Island, where it ranked 24th. There was greater variation in rankings of after-school programs: after-school was included among the top three priorities in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan, but was ranked 11th in Queens and 38th in Staten Island. And while branch library services ranked in the top 10 citywide (with a rank of 7th), Brooklyn and Staten Island community boards ranked it even higher at 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

As was the case last year, the Mayor’s Executive Budget proposes cuts to some of the services at the top of the Community Boards’ priorities. If enacted as written, the budget for 2011 would provide the elderly with fewer places to socialize and receive services because 50 senior citizens centers serving a total of 1,600 seniors would close. There would be fewer and busier child protection specialists to investigate complaints of abuse and neglect after the elimination of 32 units in the Division of Child Protection and a projected increase of the average workload for investigators from 9.5 cases to 10.9 cases. The parks might not be as well maintained after a reduction of 113 full-time equivalent positions for seasonal workers who clean, maintain, and provide security in the parks; also, four swimming pools would close and the pool season would be shortened by two weeks.

Other youth service-related cuts proposed in the Mayor’s budget include the elimination of Out-of-School Time programs at 33 schools that currently provide activities for 4,110 elementary and middle school children—about 7 percent of the 61,000 youth now served by the program. Additionally, there’s a $2.7 million reduction (7 percent) to school-based Beacon Centers, which provide after-school and other youth and family oriented programs.

A proposed $31.2 million cut in subsidies to the city’s public library systems would have a substantial effect on another of the Community Boards’ top priorities. This reduction, along with previously planned cuts, would bring the city’s subsidy for the libraries down about 20 percent to $247 million compared to this year’s level of nearly $310 million. The Brooklyn, New York, and Queens library systems have said that the reduced subsidy will mean branch closings and shorter hours of operation at many of the libraries that remain open.

While proposed cuts to youth, seniors, parks, and library services are often reversed in negotiations between the Mayor and the City Council, the challenging budget climate for the next few years means that the restoration of these reductions is far from certain.

About Those Services You Prioritized

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.