For the third year in a row, the city’s community boards are facing the possibility of Draconian cuts as the city readies its next budget.
The cuts could amount to about 20 percent of each of the board’s budgets, an amount that advocates say could potentially cripple community boards, which represent the most local level of city government, and which advocates fear are under assault, possibly targeted for elimination when a new Charter Revision Commission is convened.
There are 59 community boards in the five boroughs, 18 in Brooklyn, and, this year, each has had a budget of around $200,000, to cover staff, rent and office expenses.
“It looks very bleak for us,” Doris Ortiz, the district manager of Community Board 14, told board members during their December meeting, which was held at Public School 249, Caton Avenue and Marlborough Road.
The cuts proposed by the city administration, Ortiz elaborated, are four percent in January, with another eight percent slashed as of July 1st of next year.
“That’s definitely going to affect us,” Ortiz emphasized, noting that board managers and chairs from around the borough would be meeting and strategizing to try to head off the cuts.
The cuts would be “devastating,” said Josephine Beckmann, Community Board 10’s district manager in a subsequent interview.Beckmann, who called community boards “little city halls for the community,”said that such cuts -- if they go through -- “Would, I think, hurt our ability to fulfil our charter mandates.”
The cuts that are proposed, this go round, are “far deeper than previously,” Beckmann went on. While the board had been looking at taking on a part-time staffer to augment the two-person office, Beckmann said that, should the cuts be put into effect, she was concerned that the budget would not be able “to sustain two full-time staff members.
“We are a great value, a great service. We need to have the budget to stay open,” she emphasized.
The budget cuts proposed for community boards are also “disproportionate,” Beckmann said. While other municipal agencies got increases when finances in the city were flush, community boards never shared in the good times, yet are expected to absorb cuts when the bad times roll around, she noted.
“Community boards never received gains in our budget, but now we’re getting cut at the same rate,” Beckmann pointed out. “That just doesn’t seem fair.”
©2009 Community News Group
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