Brooklyn community boards are bracing to fight steep budget cutsproposed by the city.
Currently, each of the 59 community boards around the city hasan annual budget of $206,895. If the cuts contained in the mayor’sOffice of Management and Budget’s November gap closing plan gothrough, the current Fiscal Year 2012 budget would be cut $5,136 to$201,759. Even more painful, the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, whichgoes into effect on July 1, 2012, would be slashed $15,339 to$191,556.
The boards – which are comprised of 50 volunteer membersappointed by the borough president and area city councilmembers,plus a small paid office staff – represent the most local level ofcity government. They act as ombudsmen to solve residents’problems, provide an outlet where residents can speak out on issuesof concern, and also give advisory opinions on a wide range ofissues – from zoning to traffic pattern changes to whether or notrestaurants and bars should be issued liquor licenses.
The cuts would prove especially painful, stressed JosephineBeckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge,Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton, because – unlike other cityagencies that also must undergo financial straitening – theirbudgets have basically remained flat except for smallcost-of-living increases.
These cuts are devastating and Brooklyn community boards havestarted to organize against [them], Beckmann told board membersgathered at Shore Hill for their December meeting. A look at thenumbers is very, very grim.
Marnee Elias-Pavia, the district manager of Community Board 11in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach agreed. The cuts they have proposedcan be absorbed by larger agencies, she explained. But forcommunity boards, they represent a significant part of the budget,an employee or services brought into the community.
While the cuts are devastating for the boards, they are barelya drop in the bucket for the city as a whole, Elias-Pavia added.Taken together, she said, the cuts to all the community boards addup to only $1.2 million, but that $1.2 million is moneywell-spent.
Whether we are dealing with potholes or land use items, I thinkwe provide good value, Elias-Pavia contended. I think the citygets a big bang for the buck.
The fight is not a new one; almost every year, boards have hadto beat back proposed cuts in their annual budgets, noted JeremyLaufer, the district manager of Community Board 7 in Sunset Park.Unfortunately, he said, it’s become an annual dance.
Community boards are already up against it, fiscally speaking,he added. Right now, we have absolutely no budget for anything butthe telephone, said Laufer. We can’t pay for supplies and postageand that’s before the budget cuts. Even last year, he recalled,the board had asked for donations of paper to help tide it over;the city has not increased community board budgets for supplies orpostage since 1990, he stressed.