City shifting far less than $1B from NYPD budget, new report finds

Protesters camping out at City Hall Park earlier this summer to demand the City Council commit to defunding the police.
Photo by Todd Maisel

When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a budget deal with the City Council on the June 30 deadline, he told New Yorkers that the plan would “defund” the NYPD by a billion dollars. But the city’s Independent Budget Office contends that was very fuzzy math.

In a report released Aug. 18, the IBO — a publicly funded, non-partisan city agency — indicated that the 2021 adopted budget resulted in a $420 million cut to the NYPD from the mayor’s modified budget plan presented in April. This reduction is largely the result of cutbacks including capping overtime spending, cancelling an entire police academy class and reducing the NYPD headcount by attrition.

That’s $580 million less than the billion dollar cutbacks de Blasio touted as being part of the budget deal. He claimed that the plan included “$1 billion in cuts and cost shifts to the NYPD,” though the IBO acknowledged that de Blasio “did not specify whether the changes were limited to 2021, or would be ongoing.”

That’s not where the discrepancies ended, according to the IBO.

De Blasio’s budget announcement in June included the news that the city would shift away $350 million from the NYPD toward the Department of Education for school safety staff and crossing guards. However, the IBO reported on Aug. 17 that there’s no evidence of such a shift in the city’s financial plan.

The IBO also refuted the mayor’s claim that another $537 million in capital program funds would be moved from the NYPD toward other city agencies and the New York City Housing Authority. The agency’s report indicated that it could not confirm that amount with the documents presently available.

“Moreover, when reviewing changes in the city’s operating budget, capital plan actions need to be measured in terms of the impact on debt service costs in the operating budget,” the IBO report noted. “Thus, a capital budget change of this size likely represents a reduction of less than $50 million in annual terms.”

The financial plan projected a $295 million reduction in overtime costs, but even that figure appears suspect. The IBO reported in July that the city would likely blow its NYPD overtime cap by $400 million — a figure that would effectively wipe out the $420 million in NYPD reductions written into the 2021 budget.

The 2021 fiscal year budget was agreed upon during a particularly contentious time in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic and weeks of protests over the police-involved murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. Demonstrators called upon local elected officials to “defund” the NYPD and shift resources away to other government agencies to help end inequality.

Adding to the pressure de Blasio and city lawmakers faced in hammering out a final budget was the Occupy City Hall protest that had begun on June 23 at City Hall Park. Hundreds camped out at the public plaza demanding that the city lawmakers, during the last week of negotiations before the June 30 deadline, hold to promises of police defunding.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, in a statement to Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication amNewYork, said he expects the mayor to come through with the billion dollar cut in the end: “We expect the de Blasio administration to uphold its end of the deal that we agreed to in the budget, which includes NYPD-related savings, significantly reducing overtime and a commitment to move schools safety and school crossing guards out of the Department. Some of those changes will be reflected in a later Financial Plan.”

The mayor’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Read the full report at the IBO’s website, ibo.nyc.ny.us.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.