The Independent Budget Office is out with a new report on the city's finances. The budget picture looks positive for the city for as far as the eye can see. The report has this title:
A Bright Budget Picture:
Jobs Increasing, Tax Revenues
Rising, Budget Gaps Shrinking
The IBO statistics make UFT President Michael Mulgrew's claim in May that the cupboard was bare as he accepted a subpar city union pattern setting contract of 10% over 7 years seem laughable.
There is a consensus among even the most stingy numbers crunchers that the city will be swimming in black ink for the next few years unless some outside event causes a downturn. In fact, the IBO budget watchdogs say the only problem could be the strength of the budget.
Here is a key conclusion of the IBO report on page 22:
But it is the city's relatively strong fiscal outlook that could itself prove to be the financial plan's greatest risk. The plan contains general reserves of $750 million a year and $1.8 billion remains in the Retiree Health Benefits Trust. With the city facing only a modest budget shortfall next year and surpluses in the following years under IBO's projections, it may be difficult to contain the impulse to expand current services and implement new, ongoing programs or cut taxes. Balancing these aspirations within the limits of the city's resources is the key to keeping the budget out of the red and in the black.
I still hear extreme right wingers claiming Mayor Bill de Blasio is giving the store away to the city unions but the facts say otherwise. Union sacrifices brightened the city's budget picture considerably. Last year's December IBO Report said the UFT settlement was a big danger for the city's financial future. They aren't saying that any longer.
Here is what the IBO was forecasting in their December 2013 report concerning expired municipal labor contracts on page 22:
Foremost among the reasons for caution are the expectations built into the budget plan with regard to a settlement of expired contracts with the city’s municipal unions. A costless settlement covering the years of expired contracts prior to 2014 may be more doable on paper than in practice. Depending on the terms of the settlements, the projected surplus could quickly evaporate. In May, IBO estimated that under one plausible scenario the cost of settlements with the unions could be $6.3 billion through 2014. In this scenario, the teacher and principal unions would get the same 4 percent raises other unions received in 2008-2010 and all the municipal unions would get 2 percent wage increases from the point their contracts expired in the years 2010-2013.
Two increases of 4% for us for the years former Mayor Bloomberg refused to give the UFT the city pattern that most other city unions received around six years ago and then 2% a year for the following years is what the IBO projected as plausible. Needless to say, this scenario didn't happen. We didn't even come close. Those two 4% arrears payments for us will be spread out through 2020 and that 8% total won't be fully added to our pay until 2018. Right now UFT members are earning a whopping 2% more than we made back in 2008.
The city will more than likely continue to cry poverty when dealing with the unsettled contracts for the Policeman's Benevolent Association, Uniformed Firefighters Association and other uniformed unions. Pattern bargaining means uniformed workers will more than likely have to settle for the 11% increase over 6 years, 7 months that their supervisors agreed to recently. The PBA's best hope is to say the city has the ability to pay much more but precedent means they will probably get what their bosses received when arbitrators decide on their contract.
Whether they win or lose, they will beat the UFT's pattern and we still haven't even talked about the healthcare savings we will be subjected to in the future.
In this season of giving, I would like to remind readers how the UFT gave to NYC by accepting our inferior contract. Agreeing to make it a lengthy nine year deal that won't end until 2018 (the two years of back pay are included here in addition to the seven pattern setting years) doesn't look like a smart move by our union either. Our contract will end and the city will almost certainly be claiming the cupboard is bare again.
If the opposition could ever win a UFT election and come to power, I think it would be very prudent to employ a smart economist/accountant who might be able to demonstrate that the city's financial outlook is a little brighter than the city says it is.
Happy Holidays everyone! We can all feel good about how we helped out our great city!