New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ office and City Council leaders are negotiating the possibility of shifting around $250 million in funding toward schools following weeks of public outcry over notable cuts to the budget of the country’s largest school system.
Nothing has been finalized yet, but sources familiar with the negotiations who asked for anonymity to share private discussions told City & State that a deal is close and could be reached by the end of the week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Adams confirmed that the negotiations are taking place, speaking at an unrelated press conference at Gracie Mansion. He said there are no new dollars on the table as the budget has already been passed, but there is some restricted funding already allocated and earmarked for specific reasons.
“If we can come up with a way of saying ‘Instead of you using this on a specific reason, you can use it for something else that you wanted’…That's a conversation we could have, but if there are people saying ‘Are you going to find $250 million?’ No, there’s no $250 million to find,” Adams said.
The city budget is routinely adjusted mid-year, but the recent poor performance of the stock market could mean the city’s bean counters have less money to play around with, according to a report from Comptroller Brad Lander’s office.
The possibility of adjusting the education budget has been on the table since the mayor and Speaker Adrienne Adams came to a handshake agreement in early June. Mayor Adams said Wednesday that his team and the council have had some fruitful conversations over how to deal with declining enrollment in education as well as “other real financial crises.”
“Whatever we do, we have to keep that in mind. These are tough decisions, you know, but that's what is expected,” Mayor Adams said. “I have to make tough decisions as we deal with this economic crisis our city is facing . . . To answer directly as at this time, there is no deal that was made.”
While the body initially passed the budget last month with only six dissenting votes, many members have been vocal in calling for the funding to be restored in the weeks since. Forty-one of the council’s 51 members signed a letter last week addressed to the mayor and schools Chancellor David Banks, urging them to use $761 million in unspent federal stimulus funds to restore the education budget, which Comptroller Brad Lander’s office estimated was cut by $469 million. Progressive members of the council also publicly apologized last week for signing off on the cuts.
Advocates were already praising the potential deal, first reported Wednesday by NY1. “IF this is true: every single (dollar) won back for schools is 100% thanks to pressure by parents, teachers, & students,” wrote progressive advocacy group The People’s Plan on Twitter. “BUT there's a lot of details that are not known, & its a long way from $469M in cuts identified by (Lander’s office) … we need details!!”
Additional reporting by Sara Dorn and Jeff Coltin