‘It’s A Hard Pill To Swallow’
'It's A Hard Pill To Swallow'
Addabbo Speaks Candidly About
Budget Cuts And Property Tax Increase
With residents fuming over the City Council's decision to raise the property tax 18 percent, City Councilman Joe Addabbo, Jr. knew that it was just a matter of time before he would have to enact methods of damage control, if not for the City Council, then at least for his District. This week, Addabbo met with The Wave in an effort to thwart a major backlash from his constituents, and provide an overview for the council's decision.
"When the budget came out back in July, we, the council, knew that it was a good budget. We felt comfortable that a lot of things could be worked out with regard to maintaining many of the city's services," said Addabbo.
"We did not expect that the budget would fall short by $1 billion dollars, and that we would have to come up with ways to plug the gap."
The councilman noted that when the state provided $21 billion for revitalization of Manhattan's downtown area, specifically earmarked for the World Trade Center site, none of the money was aimed at alleviating the budgetary chokehold on the city.
"I have to say that I, and many of my fellow council members, do not understand why even a small portion of the $21 billion issued by the state could not go toward helping close the huge deficit. That's a lot of money, and some of it could have been used to help the city. For whatever reason, the State said no deal," stated Addabbo.
The councilman conveyed, in the strongest terms, that he and other council members even went as far as to try and show that there was a direct link between the city's monetary crisis and September 11 when they met with political representatives in Albany. When all was said and done, the State refused to redirect any portion of the money to the city.
"The Mayor eventually came to us and said that we had to make a choice. We could either cut government or we could raise taxes. The council was dead set against raising taxes, so we went with reducing government. It got to a point where the Mayor had cut until he could not make any further cuts."
Addabbo said the council was then divided up into county delegations, which looked at the top 10 areas where cuts could not be sustained.
"That's how we were able to save the firehouses from closing. We knew that they provided a service that was urgently needed. We placed particular focus on maintaining essential services, included them in our proposal, and submitted them to the Mayor, but we still fell short in closing the budget gap," said the councilman.
"After careful consideration, we decided that the only recourse we had was to raise the property tax to 18 percent, which is a one-shot deal. People will not have to pay the tax year after year, and it plugs the $1 billion gap in the current budget, while knocking out $3 billion from the $6 billion deficit projected for 2004."
While members of the council agree that 18 percent is a large increase, Addabbo was quick to note that residents in areas such as Nassau County and Westchester will be facing increases ranging from 31 to 35 percent.
"We all voted reluctantly, and I will be the first to say that 18 percent is a hard pill to swallow. However, you still have your firemen, libraries, teachers and many other essential services in place. It's an even trade-off, and I think most people would say that they would favor the move if it would allow crucial services to be maintained."
Addabbo says that the state's refusal to implement the commuter tax played a large part in the council's decision to raise the property tax.
"What I would like people to understand is that we need state approval for the commuter tax, and they have not provided it. I don't think it's fair for New York City residents to solely foot the bill for 9/11. It was a national tragedy, and we all should pay our fair share. If people come into the city to utilize our services, why shouldn't they have a role in helping to reduce the deficit? The commuter tax could generate an additional $300 million in additional revenue for the city, which could help us tremendously."
Addabbo does not fault the Guiliani Administration for the budget crisis now facing the city. Instead, he says the fault lies with a slumping economy that started when Guiliani was leaving office. He also cited the events of September 11, and the fact that Guiliani used surpluses to fill budget gaps during his final days, as contributing factors in the city's financial problems.
"I don't blame Guiliani because he did what any mayor would've done. We must understand that the economy is cyclical, and it will rebound at some point. It's just a matter of when. With that said, I think if you look two to three years down the road, we may actually consider rolling back the increase."
Addabbo told The Wave that while $849 million in cuts have been made, the council has been successful in restoring $48 million in services.