By Katie Honan and Leslie Brody
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had agreed to shift more than $1 billion in annual funding out of the New York Police Department, as he and the city council raced to agree on the city's budget for the coming fiscal year.
The mayor provided few details Monday about the proposed reductions because he and the council were still in negotiations. However, part of the funding changes would involve shrinking the NYPD's head count and transferring school safety agents and crossing guards from the control of the police to the Department of Education, according to people familiar with the matter.
Under the proposal, the NYPD's annual funding would drop to about $5 billion from $6 billion.
At a press conference Monday, Mr. de Basio also said that he had also proposed to shift $500 million out of the NYPD's capital budget. The money instead would go toward the improvement of youth centers and public-housing, he said.
The mayor and city council must pass a budget for the coming fiscal year by Tuesday night. The city faces a deficit of around $9 billion over the next two years because of a decline in revenue after the new coronavirus devastated the economy.
The gap has forced the Democratic mayor and the council to identify cost-saving measures and consider layoffs. The budget is expected to be around $87 billion, down from the $95 billion preliminary budget proposed earlier this year.
"We're in a whole different situation, in fact, than New York City's ever faced in our history, a health-care crisis, an economic crisis, a disparity crisis, a budget crisis all wrapped into one and on a massive, massive scale," Mr. de Blasio said at the press conference.
Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, which represents more than 5,000 school safety agents, said Monday that he hadn't been informed of any change that would move safety agents from the NYPD, and doing so would make schools more dangerous. Alluding to the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old by a classmate inside a Bronx public school in 2017, Mr. Floyd said "there will be more if they separate school safety from the police department."
Some advocates for less punitive discipline have pushed to remove safety agents altogether, saying they often heighten tensions and make schools feel like prisons. The agents are unarmed but wear uniforms.
A Department of Education spokeswoman referred a request for comment to the mayor's office.
A spokeswoman for the police department directed all funding questions to the mayor's office. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has previously said he supports some cuts to the police department if they go to youth and social services, but didn't agree with $1 billion in reductions.
The planned cuts to the NYPD are a response to weeks of protests across the country over the May 25 death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. The protesters, including many in New York City, have demanded overhauls to policing and the defunding of departments.
Some members of the city council have vowed not to vote for a budget that didn't cut the agency's budget by at least $1 billion. Activists also have decried shifting responsibilities from the police department to other agencies, saying they need larger cuts to the NYPD's budget.
As the budget deadline approaches. Mr. de Blasio has warned about cuts across all agencies, and of layoffs and furloughs of up to 22,000 city employees by Oct. 1 if the city doesn't get more help. The mayor also is looking to find savings within city labor unions.
The city Department of Education told principals earlier this month to plan for an estimated 3% reduction in their schools' fiscal 2021 budgets, on average, noting that not all schools would see such a cut. Department officials said they aimed to minimize the impact on the most vulnerable communities.
Mr. de Blasio said he still hoped the city would get federal assistance and that the New York state Legislature would grant the city the authority to borrow up to $5 billion. The mayor said Monday the state Assembly supported the plan, but the state Senate didn't.
A spokesman for the state Senate majority leader said in a statement that senators had concerns about the increase in city spending each year since Mr. de Blasio took office in 2014.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 29, 2020 19:27 ET (23:27 GMT)
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