What to watch in the NYC budget fight

“We’ve still got six days to go. In budget negotiations, that’s a lifetime.”

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Mayor Eric Adams appear together in 2023.

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Mayor Eric Adams appear together in 2023. John McCarten NYC Council Media Unit

With the start of the next fiscal year looming roughly a week away, the clock is ticking as the New York City Council and the Adams administration work to hammer out a budget agreement.

At the center of negotiations? New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed cuts to a bevy of city agencies, which have continued to draw a flurry of backlash in the waning days ahead of the June 30 deadline. While Mayor Adams has contended the cuts – enacted in November and January and since partially reversed – are necessary to offset budgetary gaps exacerbated by spending for asylum-seeker services, the City Council has argued there is more money on the table from taxes and revenue that can be used to restore funding. Supporters of services at risk from fiscal belt-tightening like weekend library service, cultural institutions, 3-K expansion and park upkeep have rallied in last-ditch efforts to fight for more funding over the last couple of days. At least four different rallies calling for restorations have been held around City Hall since Thursday. 

But while both City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and the mayor have expressed their commitment to striking a deal this week, negotiations have hit a sticking point on several issues tied to where members hope to restore cut funding, raising some concerns over whether an agreement will be in place by the deadline. 

New York City Council Finance Chair Justin Brannan said the council’s priorities remain the same heading into the last week of the fiscal year: early childhood education, libraries, parks, housing, and Fair Fares and more. 

“We are making progress, but we are not done yet,” he said in a text. “We are still fighting for everything we said we would be fighting for. We’ve still got six days to go. In budget negotiations, that’s a lifetime.”

There’s a lot at stake and a lot to watch over the coming days. Here are some of the most important things to know as City Hall and the Adams administration work to hash out a final agreement.

Sticking points 

Many of the budgetary sticking points between the City Council and the Adams administration have stayed the same over the past couple of months. While City Council leaders have declined to say what specific areas have held up negotiations, the body has said restoring cuts to cultural institutions, mental health services, libraries, housing programs and early childhood education are top priorities. Potential impacts to services vary agency to agency, but supporters have argued they are significant. For example, advocates have warned that the $58.3 million in cuts to the city’s public libraries could fully eliminate weekend service. 

On Monday, City Council spokesperson Rendy Desamours said that conversations are ongoing, but whether the Adams administration is budging is the question. “The vibe of the admin is basically they feel like they’re done on their end. They presented their executive budget and that’s it, but they left a bulk of their cuts on the table.They expect members to sort of accept cuts to libraries, culturals and parks,” he said.

Deputy Mayor of Communications Fabien Levy said budget negotiations are “going great.”

“We look forward to delivering an on-time, balanced budget that invests heavily in the working-people of the city this week,” he said in an email.

Restored cuts 

Citing better than expected revenue projections and savings on migrant services, Mayor Adams’ $116.6 billion executive budget unveiled in April proposed restoring some of the most controversial cuts. That included roughly $22.6 million for cultural institutions over the next three years, restoring funding for two previously cut New York City Police Department classes, city funding to replace some expiring federal pandemic dollars that supported early childhood education and a bevy of other public school programs.

Speaker Adams told reporters last week that the City Council should never have been in a position where it was dedicating much of its time fighting for funding restorations. 

“We’re continuing to restore items that were cut that the council believes should have never been cut in the first place,” Speaker Adams told reporters last week. “We are becoming the council of restoration instead of the council of building.”

Conflicting forecasts 

While not unusual, diverging budget projections from the Adams administration, the City Council, and budget watchdogs Citizens Budget Commission and the New York City Independent Budget Office have complicated negotiations. CBC contends that the mayor’s budget proposal is several billion dollars short of being able to maintain current services, threatening the city’s ability to fully fund CityFHEPS rental vouchers, homeless shelters and pre-K if more cuts aren’t made. In May, IBO projected a $5.1 billion surplus in fiscal year 2025, largely attributing it to higher than expected tax revenue and less than anticipated spending in 2024, but projected higher budget gaps than the administration has starting in fiscal year 2026. The upcoming end of expiring federal stimulus funds that have been used for city services and programs has also loomed large over budgetary negotiations. 

Will they make the deadline? 

There’s not much recent precedent for city leaders failing to pass a budget by the June 30 deadline, but if that were to occur, the 2024 fiscal year budget would remain in place until a deal is struck. Mayor Adams has been adamant that a deal will come together before the deadline. Still, the Daily News reported last week that City Council leaders told members to prepare for the possibility of a late budget as negotiations with the mayor came to an “intractable” halt over several key issues.

“We are going to land this plane,” Mayor Adams said Tuesday. “Speaker Adams and I are extremely competent.”

Speaking to reporters last week, Speaker Adams said the City Council’s goal is always to pass the budget on time, but she didn’t rule out the possibility that the budget agreement could be late either. 

“From a Council perspective, I will say this: We have bank left, we’re in a holding pattern, we’re circling the airport and if possible there will be a diversion,” Speaker Adams said, co-opting the mayor’s frequent description of the budget being a plane he will land.