We’ve long warned about Mayor de Blasio’s reckless padding of the city workforce, but a new City Budget Commission analysis sets out the cold, hard risks.
By the end of this fiscal year, the report notes, the city-employee head count will hit a record 331,520 — a jump of 34,171 workers, or 11.5 percent, since Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last fiscal year.
And the extra full-timers come with a hefty price tag: $2.5 billion this year alone. Plus, tack on another half-billion for long-term costs (retiree pensions, health care and other expenses).
It helps explain why Gotham’s budget has soared 20 percent (three times inflation) under de Blasio: Added workers account for one of every six dollars in new city spending.
OK, some new positions may be justified: We certainly supported adding 1,000 new cops for the NYPD and aren’t totally surprised that the increase wound up being 1,600-plus.
Yet more than a third of the new city workers, 12,322, landed at the Department of Education, including not just hires for de Blasio’s universal pre-K program but also for the vast DOE bureaucracy. And this when, even with pre-K’s growth, enrollment at city schools fell by 11,000 kids between 2014 and this year. Nor have schools gotten better. So what on earth are the new hires doing?
Ballooning staffs at other agencies also raise questions: Law Department staff grew 35 percent; Buildings Department, 75 percent. Mayoral underlings, 45 percent. The Board of Elections, 73 percent.
And the 719 new workers at the Department of Homeless Services made for a 39 percent bump, reflecting city policy that has pushed the ranks of the homeless to record highs.
The big problem: As the CBC points out, the city won’t be able to pay for all the extra workers if the economy turns south and revenue dries up. Already, New York is in its 109th month of an economic recovery; the good times won’t last forever.
After the financial collapse a decade ago, the city headcount dropped by 13,266 full-timers. If another slowdown hits, budget cuts will mean fresh downsizing — yet attrition and union-dictated layoff rules will make it hard to ensure that the city has the best people on board.
The bloated headcount also means higher liabilities over the long term, thanks to higher pension and health-care costs.
At some point, the bill will come due. Better to rein in the payroll now — and avoid disaster later.