Remarks of New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer at the Annual Meeting Of The New York State Financial Control Board
August 2, 2017
I am honored to join Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller DiNapoli, State Budget Director Mujica and the members and staff of the Financial Control Board.
I am pleased to be with so many New Yorkers who understand that the stakes for our City have never been higher. Our shared belief in an open and diverse society that cares for our most vulnerable people is under attack on a daily basis.
I am proud to say that each of our offices has worked diligently to shed light on the human costs of the policies coming out of Washington, from immigration restrictions to unacceptable reversals in health care coverage to dismantling our social safety net. We have had some initial success, but we must continue to fight back against a vision of tax breaks for the wealthy and service cuts for working families.
The good news is, despite these challenges at the national level, New York City’s economy is strong. My office recently put out a report that found payroll employment in the city is 14 percent higher than before the recession in 2008. That’s more than half a million additional people working in New York City. Our unemployment rate is the lowest since we began collecting modern statistics, and our labor force participation rate is the highest.
I want to commend Mayor de Blasio for continuing to identify budget savings to build up our reserves and prepare for the inevitable rainy day. In the last fiscal year, the City identified $6.6 billion in total savings through FY 2021 under the Citywide Savings Program. Our offices also continue to work together to identify debt service savings. Together, we have achieved $678 million in budgetary savings over the last four fiscal years from bond refinancing.
The Mayor has now added to the City’s budget cushion for four straight years. At the beginning of FY 2018, the budget cushion, as measured by my office, stood at $9.8 billion, or 11.1 percent of adjusted spending. This approaches the 12 percent threshold we have previously recommended, and we believe we can reach this threshold with a continued focus on finding efficiencies in government services.
While identifying new savings in the Adopted Budget, the Mayor was also able to secure new resources to invest in our people and our safety net, including:
- Making housing more affordable for our seniors;
- Expanding access to counsel in housing court;
- Investing in our youth through new school construction, broadband access, air conditioning in schools, and expanded after-school opportunities; and
- Making our city safer through Vision Zero and the addition of school crossing guards at every crossing.
Overall, my office’s assessment of the City’s Adopted Budget financial plan finds that the outyear gaps are manageable. The Administration has prudently forecast conservative revenue estimates going forward. As such, my office expects additional revenues over the plan. And with budgeted reserves of $1.45 billion in FY 2018 and $1.25 billion in each of the outyears, closing the gaps in FY 2019 and beyond should be achievable.
Finally, I am pleased to report that based on our preliminary estimate, our pension funds produced returns of 12.95 percent in FY 2017, significantly above our actuarial target of 7 percent. Working together with the Mayor and the boards of our City employee retirement systems, we have achieved a compound rate of return of 7.4 percent over the last four fiscal years, slightly above our long-term expected return of 7 percent. My office projects that last year’s performance will reduce pension contributions by more than $800 million over the financial plan period. While this is certainly good news, we should remember that our investment focus remains on the long term and the markets may be more challenging in the coming year.
That’s why today, while our local economy is strong, we must continue to tackle some of our city’s greatest challenges – affordability, homelessness, and investment in our aging transportation infrastructure. Only when we address these issues, together, will our city truly be able to move forward and thrive.
I look forward to working with everyone here today to ensure that New York City remains on a strong financial footing, and that we continue to be a great progressive beacon for this country and the world.
Read the Comments on New York City’s Fiscal Year 2018 Adopted Budget report.