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Community boards’ sigh of relief

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Community boards were spared the unkindest cut last week, when it was announced that their budgets will remain intact—for now.

The 59 all-volunteer boards were in danger of having an eight-percent cutback imposed on them for fiscal year 2009, a move that some feared might cripple their operations.

“The message hasn’t changed—but we are still in jeopardy,” said Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6, which encompasses much of Brownstone Brooklyn.

That’s because according to the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, the proposed cuts still exist as taking effect for fiscal year 2010 and beyond.

“We now at least have an opportunity to give the administration a chance to show us that they are serious about supporting a community’s voice in city government,” Hammerman said.

The mayor’s executive budget isn’t due out until January 2009.

The $59.1 billion city budget passed June 29. Because of projected city budget deficits and a slumping housing market, cuts were suggested across all city agencies.

The City Council restored all of the money that the mayor initially proposed cutting from the community boards, which serve as a link between the public and city agencies.

Hammerman praised the efforts in particular of Councilmember Simcha Felder and Borough President Marty Markowitz, who lobbied to preserve the boards’ budgets.

The city’s math is less laudable, he said.

Initially, he said, the city slashed five percent from the boards’ budgets.

The additional eight percent cut to the boards’ $200,000 budget amounts to $16,000 per board.

Multiply $16,000 by the number of boards, 59, and the total savings is $944,000, or .0016 percent of the city’s budget.

“.0016 percent savings is what they would have realized at the expense of crippling the community,” Hammerman said.

Most of the community board’s budget goes to salary, he said. “Whatever is left is used to run the office,” the district manager said.

“Some people were thinking about tearing out telephones and shutting down their offices a day a week to make the cuts,” he continued.

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