February 10, 2015 / 12:03 AM / 3 years ago

New York City mayor takes cautious approach in 2016 budget plan

Feb 9 (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday proposed a cautious $77.7 billion fiscal 2016 budget, about 1 percent smaller than the current budget, and warned that the city's economic good fortunes may not last forever.

His proposed spending plan is smaller than this year's $78.5 billion budget, largely because of the windfall of federal aid the city received in the current year for Hurricane Sandy rebuilding.

But both federal and state aid are potentially risky areas to rely on moving forward, he said.

"I think that there's really substantial risks here. Part of this is to never be overconfident," de Blasio said at a City Hall briefing. "The federal dynamics are filled with question marks. The state dynamics are not particularly satisfying at this point. And the overall economic picture is not as good a some of the statistics suggest."

De Blasio did say that he wanted to spend more money on a number of items, including additional ambulance tours and emergency medical service dispatchers, bullet-resistant vests for police officers, universal pre-kindergarten and after-school programs and higher education.

But he took a measured approach to everything from personal income tax revenue projections to the city's general reserve, in which he vowed to stash away $750 million for a rainy day, up from $300 million.

He proposed closing a $1.6 billion gap by prepaying some 2016 expenses this year, saving on debt service costs and other measures. He is continuing to ask departments to find ways to save money, without specifying cuts or quotas. The full extent of department-wide savings won't be released until April.

De Blasio warned that while the city's economic production is strong and private sector job growth outpaces the nation, the nation's economy has been expanding for 68 months, since July 2009. That's already longer than six other expansions since 1949.

"Economic expansions do not go on forever. And we have to prepare for when things turn," he said. "This would be the time to start planning for that rainy day."

While praising de Blasio's overall proposals, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras said in a statement that they were disappointed de Blasio didn't include money to hire more police officers.

The city council will debate the budget in coming months, with a final deal to be hammered out before the start of fiscal 2016 on July 1. (Reporting by Hilary Russ; editing by Andrew Hay)

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