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Bloomberg pitches gloomy forecast for retroactive teacher pay

Mayor Bloomberg said today that a deal to give teachers retroactive raises to make up for five years without a new contract would cost billions and cripple the city’s financial stability.

“It’s just something the city can’t possible afford,” said Bloomberg, who made the remarks while presenting a $69.8 billion spending plan, the final proposal of his administration.

Retroactive raises for the more than 100 municipal labor unions and organizations with expired contracts is a looming issue for the city’s fiscal future and in the mayoral campaign to replace Bloomberg. Bloomberg has refused to negotiate new deals if it means the inclusion of the raises, which would total 8 percent for the city’s 80,000 teachers.

He estimated today that costs from retroactive teacher raises would be $3.8 billion in 2014 and $1 billion every year after. Raises for all city workers would cost a combined $7.8 billion in 2014 and $3 billion in subsequent years, he said.

New York City teachers have been without a contract since 2009. They missed out on a 8 percent raise over two years, which most city employees received at the time because other unions entered into contract deals earlier than the United Federation of Teachers.

“The teachers union took a bet. Thank you, Randi Weingarten,” said Bloomberg, referring to the former union president and a decision the UFT made to delay negotiations to secure larger raises. He said today that by the time negotiations picked up, the full impact of the mortgage crisis was being felt and the economy had declined rapidly. “She wanted to show that she had delivered more than the other unions.”

Bloomberg’s comments, which included criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the State Education Department and the current UFT leadership, drew swift rebukes.

“It is so sad that the Mayor would actually try to blame everyone but himself for his budget choices and for a recession created by Wall Street recklessness,” Weingarten said.

“Today, the Mayor basically took the budget football and fumbled it on purpose, blaming everybody else, starting with the teachers,” Bill Thompson, a candidate for mayor, said in a statement.

Even as he reserved much of criticism for education foes, Bloomberg painted an overal rosy fiscal picture in his 2014 fiscal year budget proposal, which included more than $13 billion for education, the largest share of any city agency.

“The news today is reasonably good – as good as it has been in a long time,” Bloomberg said as he began his remarks.

The budget projections were disputed by the UFT. As has been typical during the Bloomberg administration, the executive budget forecasts large deficits and proposes sweeping cuts — past years have included firehouses, teachers and childcare centers — to make up the difference. Often, those cuts are restored during negotiations with the City Council.

“Why would anyone believe these numbers?” UFT President Michael Muglrew said in a statement.

As expected, the Executive Budget proposal does not restore $130 million in funding for child care and after-school programs, a key issue for advocates that will likely be a sticking point for City Council members.

“This budget is the moment for New York City to provide the resources so every child can have access to quality Pre-K and after-school programs,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is also running for mayor.

Bloomberg’s comments included criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the State Education Department and the current UFT leadership for the city’s loss of $250 million in state aid over a missed teacher evaluation deadline. He referred to the news last week that districts had reportedly entered into side deals that circumvented some requirements in their state-approved teacher evaluation plans.

“If that isn’t corruption that the governor should look, at I don’t know what is,” he said. “We were honest and the governor cut us $250 million.”

The City Council, which has negotiate and approve a final spending plan with the mayor, will begin hearings on the budget starting next week. The budget is due June 30.

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