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Originally Published: June 25, 2014

Districts to receive near equal amounts of expense funds and equal capital funds

Nearly three-quarters of districts will receive more expense funding than in the past

Nearly three-quarters of council districts (36) will receive more base-line expense funding than in past years when the City Council tonight passes the city’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, upholding the promise from the Rules Reforms passed earlier this year to distribute member items in a more equitable and need-based manner.  Each of the 36 districts will receive an average of $157,647 more than they did in the previous budget.

The base funding for expense funding increased from $340,464 for each member in FY 2014 with additional funds distributed to members at the discretion of the Speaker, to a minimum of $685,000 per member in FY 2015, with no additional funds distributed at the discretion of the speaker.  The Speaker’s pot increased by $1 million to $16 million which is distributed at the sole discretion of the Speaker and still can be used to support favored allies.

Citizens Union’s analysis of expense funding is available online for download in excel format.

“The City Council has lived up to its promise of further reforming the distribution of discretionary funding to its members by making more equitable and needs-based funding decisions,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “This is a sea change from previous years, and creates a Council where power is shared with individual members and their constituents benefit.”

Citizens Union commends the City Council for this equalization, as well as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Brad Lander for their leadership in further reforming the discretionary funding process.  This follows Citizens Union’s testimony to the City Council earlier this year on ways to reform the discretionary funding process, and CU’s highly referenced  discretionary funding report from 2012 that demonstrated for the first time that funding was previously distributed based on politics rather than need.

The Council has also stated in Schedule C – its document disclosing expense funding applications – that Capital Funding will now be equalized at $5 million per member. Citizens Union plans to do further analysis of the Capital Budget when the data is made publicly available.

Members will receive between $685,000 and $760,000 in expense funding for their districts for a total of $36.5 million. This is composed of:

  • A base of $400,000 for local projects;
  • $110,000 for aging programs;
  • $150,000 for youth programs; and
  • $25,000, $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 in additional funds, depending on the level of poverty in the district, as determined by the number of individuals under the poverty level.

Councilmembers Arroyo, Cabrera, Gibson and Torres received $100,000 in total poverty-targeted funds for their Bronx districts, reflecting the proportion of economically disadvantaged residents of their districts.  Likewise, Speaker Mark-Viverito’s district in East Harlem also received the maximum $100,000 allotment.

“The true beneficiaries of this reformed discretionary funding process are the constituents in each district,” said Rachael Fauss, Policy and Research Manager of Citizens Union who analyzed the budget items. “By distributing funds equitably and based on measures of poverty, the residents of each district will be more fairly served in the city’s budget process.”

According to Citizens Union’s analysis of Schedule C, 15 districts will receive fewer expense funds than last year, an average reduction of $225,945.  Many of the districts receiving fewer funds this fiscal year are more of a reflection of the previous officeholders’ stature in the last Council than their current representatives. Among the 15 districts receiving fewer funds are those offices last held by Councilmembers Quinn, Recchia, Comrie, Felder and Rivera, all leaders of the previous Council who received a disproportionate share of discretionary funding. This includes four current officeholders who were previous incumbents in 2013: Councilmembers Inez Dickens ($215,964 less), Annabel Palma ($247,651 less), Karen Koslowitz ($74,321 less), and Vincent Ignizio ($12,131 less).

The district receiving the most in new expense funds ($330,536 more than in Fiscal Year 2014) is District 42 in Brooklyn, currently represented by Councilmember Inez Barron. The previous officeholder, Charles Barron, (husband of Inez), was a frequent critic of the previous speaker, and received less discretionary funding as a result.

The district receiving the least in expense funds compared to last year is District 47 in Brooklyn, currently held by Mark Treyger, which is receiving $853,464 less. The previous officeholder, Dominic Recchia, was the Chair of the Finance Committee and a powerful ally of the speaker, who distributed funding beyond his district, possibly to prepare for run for higher office as a member of Congress or his initial aspiration to be city comptroller.

The Speaker’s List remains similar in size to previous years, at a total of $16,139,000. Though an increase over last year, when it totaled $15,045,000, it is proportionally the same in relation to funding received by individual members, at 44 percent. According to the Council’s Rules Reforms, the Speaker’s List cannot exceed 50 percent of the total expense funds allocated by the Council.

Citizens Union will be providing additional analysis of the Council’s discretionary funds – including all capital funding and expense funding, such as citywide initiatives – in the days to come after the budget is passed.

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