Yesterday, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment postponed a hard decision about furloughs for city employees this year.
The City's FY 2012 budget, which was built upon the Budget Division's projections of revenue and expenses last spring, includes furloughs, which are unpaid days off for city employees. To avoid other cuts and a deficit without the furloughs, actual revenues will have to exceed the projections by an equal amount.
That is what E&A bet, though I think it may turn out to have been reckless to disregard the urgent testimony of the Budget Director.
Furloughs are not popular, certainly not to the city employees who take them. But, to most employees and to residents whose own businesses are making hard choices, furloughs are generally preferable to laying people off. In this slow national economy, a layoff is a very serious (and, often, permanent) matter.
It is true that some City revenues are growing a bit faster than projected. (Others are not.) And it is true the City ended the last fiscal year with a small surplus. Unfortunately, the City also continues to face rising pension and health care costs ' with the former tied to worse-than-projected investment market declines. Waiting for another month of actual revenues may be a comfortable decision today, but it may lead to some employee layoffs later. City employees who would rather share some sacrifices now rather than face possible unemployment later should watch the E&A agenda very closely next month.