March 24 2011
By Neal Tepel
District Council 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, head of the city’s largest public employee union, testified March 21, before the joint New York City Council Committees on Finance and Contracts urging the adoption of two proposals she said would both generate revenue and bring greater transparency to the contracting out process.
Pointing to severe cuts in schools, libraries, parks and other vital city services proposed in the Mayor’s preliminary Fiscal Year 2012 budget, Roberts said, “It is unconscionable to reduce essential services while continuing to contract out. Where is the accountability for those who have enriched themselves at the expense of New York City taxpayers?”
Roberts said DC 37 is proposing a 10 percent reduction of “all professional, technical and consultant services contracts, a move that she said would “generate about $400 million in savings almost enough to prevent the proposed layoffs” of thousands of city employees. Noting that these categories of contracts have received rate increases of 15 percent annually since FY’05,” she said, “It is only fair “that if we are all being asked to share the sacrifice of an economic downturn that contractors are asked to do the same.” Similar steps have been taken in Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as the NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority saving taxpayers several millions.
Roberts pointed out that the union is also calling for legislation similar that enacted by the State in December 2009 requiring agencies to list the full time workers covered by outside contracts saying that would bring “greater transparency” to the process. The State legislation, which calls for a report prepared by the NYS Office of Management and Budget and presented as part of the budget process, also resulted in a consultant conversion program aimed at minimizing the over reliance on Information Technology. That, in turn, resulted in a savings of approximately $50,000 per consultant conversion. Roberts added, “Imagine what we could save in New York City if a similar plan was applied to the nearly 2,000 IT consultants working throughout city agencies every day. Most of these consultants are averaging $380,000 a year for work that city workers have been doing for a salary of less than $100,000 per year.”
Even as the Mayor threatens to balance the budget by cutting services and laying off city workers, Roberts said his recent budget proposal increases spending on outside contracts by $600 million in Fiscal Year 2012, pushing it up from the current $9.7 billion to $10.4 billion.
“The need to curtail waste in the city’s contract budget” Roberts added, “is small in comparison to the need to restore the confidence of taxpayers in a government that should put their interests over the interests of others, regardless of wealth and power. That need has never been greater.”