Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York City yesterday presented a $210 million gap-closing plan for fiscal 1992 and a revised financial plan for fiscal 1993 through fiscal 1993 that includes a proposal to eliminate about $3 billion of proposed property tax increases and reduce the city work force by 31,000.
The Dinkins administration admitted it made the unusual move of presenting the revised four-year plan and a preview of fiscal 1996 early in the hopes of gaining support from bond raters, fiscal monitors, the state, and the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York. The revised four-year plan is usually presented each January.
"The mere fact that we have chosen to present a restructuring of our financial plan two months ahead of time indicates that our fiscal horizon has changed considerably since mid-summer," said Mayor Dinkins at a press conference in the old Board of Estimate room in City Hall.
The mayor, who has been dealing with a souring city economy and chronic budget gaps since assuming office in January 1990, said, "In some ways, New York City in the past two years has been like a ship in stormy waters."
The mayor's plan was greeted with mixed reactions, as fiscal monitors and state and city officials expressed concern about the viability of the plan.
Standard & Poor's Corp. suggested the city go back to the drawing board. The city's four-year plan "needs to be spelled out in more detail before it can serve as a basis for assuring ongoing budgetary balance," the agency said in a statement.
The city's plan relies on unspecified cost containment, productivity gains, attrition, and other revenues, said the rating agency, which rates the city's general obligation bonds A-minus. In addition, the $1 billion MAC refunding still awaits a decision.
The revised financial plan also fails to include the higher debt service costs to the city that are associated with the MAC refunding. Those costs could be more than $100 million a year from fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2008, the agency notes.
Kenneth Kurtz, a senior analyst with Moody's Investors Service, said, "We just received it. We haven't cracked the cover, and we will be reviewing it over the next few days and discussing it with the city next week." Moody's rates the city's GO debt Baa 1.
City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman said, "The revised financial plan leaves too many questions unanswered. It's also unclear how the city intends to reduce the work force, and if it intends to use accelerated attrition or expanded early retirement."
The gap-closing plan for the $28.5 billion fiscal 1992 budget, which began July 1, contains $120 million of reductions in "other than personnel spending"; $75 million in expenses that the city had expected to pay in fiscal 1992 but now have been dropped; and $14 million in funds returned to the city by AT&T, which has decided to move out of the city.
The revised four-year plan includes $1 billion of revenues from MAC's bond refunding, but the city does not plan to use the revenues in fiscal 1992. To prevent budget gaps, the city plans to use $450 million in fiscal 1993 and $550 million in fiscal 1994.
City budget officials described the corporation's funds as transitional and a "bridge" to fiscal 1995.
Some city and state officials said the MAC funds may be used to pay for future wage settlements with labor unions or to stall for time before the implementation of tax increases.
State Comptroller Edward V. Regan blasted the refunding as "a road to nowhere" and a way to delay tax increases.
The revised financial plan also proposed to cut 31,000 employees from the city payroll by fiscal 1996 through attrition. The city, however, plans to hire about 5,000 police officers during the period, so the net loss of jobs is estimated to be 26,000.
As one way to reduce the tax burden on homeowners and businesses in the city, the revised plan also proposes to drop real estate tax increases proposed in fiscal 1993 and 1994 and to reduce proposed tax increases in fiscal 1995 to $330 million and to $338 million in fiscal 1996.
While there have been proposals to create tolls on the 12 Manhattan bridges the city oversees, the plan says the Dinkins administration will study other revenues sources for a dedicated revenue stream, such as a 15-cent gas tax increase or impose user fees. The city plans to push for legislation in January to create a surface transportation authority or a trust fund to finance bridge and road rehabilitation and other road works.
The city is also exploring privatizing some of the Sanitation Department's services, such as recycling.
For those who opoose bridge tools, sanitation fees, and increasing taxes to finance the city's budget in future fiscal years, the revised financial plan represented a small victory. Peter Vallone, speaker of the 51-member city council, said, "We congratulate Mayor Dinkins for making a fundamental shift in his approach to fiscal recovery and for taking many significant steps that the council and others have suggested as way to improve this city's economic health."
He noted, however, that "there are also still questions to be answered. The level of work force reduction is a significant start but further downsizing needs to be looked at." And the city council does not want to see "a further gutting of basic service delivery instead of downsizing through restructuring."
Some city and state officials questioned whether the Dinkins administration really has the makings of a structurally balanced financial plan. "There are an awful lot of things that require other people to do things. So if those things don't happen, then there is an awfully big hole," one official said.
One proposal includes $150 million generated in fiscal 1995 and 1996 by amending the state constitution's "50% rule" on debt repayment to allow the city to use level debt service payments. And the state takeover of the city's Medicaid costs still requires the approval of state lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the proceeds from the bond refunding are still not in hanb.
Felix G. Rohatyn, chairman of the corporation, had delayed the refunding bond sale until the city presents a revised four-year plan that the corporation's board, the Financial Control Board, and the bond raters view as credible and structurally balanced.
"We have a credible four-year financial plan," Mr. Dinkins said. "We feel we have met his criteria"; and that Mr. Rohatyn will "embrace the plan."
Quentin B. Spector, executive director of MAC, said, "The mayor has responded to many of the principal concerns raised by Mr. Rohatyn as necessary conditions of any restructuring program -- in particular, the elimination of the bulk of the proposed property tax increases and the program of attrition to reduce the work force."
"However, in examining the details of the plan, we will have to pay particularly close attention to assumptions for revenue actions outside the city's control," he said. "We will look to the rating agencies and the Financial Control Board to help us in evaluating this plan and in making our decision on the refunding."
Although Mr. Rohatyn has suggested the corporation's revenues be used for specific projects, like school construction and parks, Mr. Dinkins said yesterday that the funds would be used for gap-closing purposes.
Mr. Spector said, "We have some concerns about the MAC money being used as a gap closer in fiscal years 1993 and 1994."