Brooklyn will have a seat at the table when city councilmembers sit down with de Blasio administration officials to hammer out an agreement for a new city budget.
Councilmember Mark Treyger, a Democrat representing Coney Island and parts of Gravesend and Bensonhurst, has been tapped by Council Speaker Corey Johnson to serve on the council’s budget negotiating team.
Under law, a budget agreement must be in place by July 1, when the city’s new fiscal year, Fiscal Year 2020, begins. “The negotiations can get intense,” Treyger told this newspaper.
In addition to his role negotiating a spending package for the city, Treyger is the co-chair, along with Bushwick Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, of the Council’s 16-member Brooklyn delegation.
Budget negotiations will take place over the next several weeks. Mayor Bill de Blasio has submitted his executive budget to the Council, which sent back its official response.
Now, the negotiations begin in earnest.
Last year, the mayor and the Council reached an agreement on an $89.2 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019 early, weeks before the July 1 deadline. Among the notable items in that budget was $106 million in funding for Fair Fares, a new program to provide poverty-stricken New Yorkers with half-priced Metrocards.
Treyger, a former high school teacher who is chairperson of the Council’s Education Committee, said he has several education-related items on his budget wish list this year. “Education is one of my main priorities,” he said.
Treyger said the mayor’s executive budget did not include an increase in Fair Student Funding, the program under which the city provides its share of the funding going to schools. New York state provides the bulk of the funding for education. “We want an increase in Fair Student Funding,” Treyger said.
Under the Fair Student Funding formula, schools with large numbers of struggling students from low-income families are given additional funding by the city.
Treyger is also seeking $28 million to hire additional social workers for public schools. “The New York City school system has 1.1 million students. There are 5,500 school safety agents. But there are only 1,300 social workers and only 550 school psychologists,” he said.
Social workers are crucial, according to Treyger. “They are licensed. They are skilled. They know what they’re doing. They know how to navigate the bureaucracy. It’s not a job for a consultant. Social workers can provide direct services to children who have been through trauma, like children living in the shelter system. Living in a shelter can be traumatic,” he said.
Treyger vowed to continue to fight for pay parity for educators working in community based organizations that provide pre-kindergarten classes under the mayor’s Pre-K for All program.
Teachers in community based organizations make less than their public school counterparts, according to Treyger, who is pushing to have $89 million put into the city budget to bring parity.
Without it, community based organizations will continue to have a hard time retaining instructors, he said. “Teachers leave to go elsewhere to make more money,” he added.