Fear and loathing pervades Borough President Markowitz’s office in the wake of another round of cutbacks ordered by Mayor Bloomberg that will hand pink slips to six more staffers and, more important, drastically reduce the pot of taxpayer money that Markowitz gets to dole out to his hand-picked groups.
The impending layoffs would trim $108,000 from Borough Hall’s 74-employee, $4.2-million payroll. They come after eight workers were sacked in June, saving taxpayers $397,021 — more than was actually ordered by the Bloomberg Administration.
On top of that, Markowitz’s discretionary spending has been lopped from $2.1 million to $302,000 in a further erosion of the power the borough presidents enjoyed before the city charter was rewritten in 1989.
“The general tone in the office is just a feeling of impending doom,” said one staffer who didn’t want to give his name, but said staff morale is in the gutter. “Even those of us that aren’t getting laid off right now are sitting around wondering what ball is going to drop next,” he said outside Borough Hall on Monday.
For his part, Markowitz accepted the budget cuts as necessary.
“I don’t have to remind anyone that these are challenging economic times that require all of us to make tough decisions and do some ‘belt tightening’ to close the growing city and state budget shortfalls,” he said in a statement.
“No one is immune — including the Brooklyn borough president’s office.”
And more bad news could indeed be in store for the worried workers.
“Over the next several weeks, we’ll be reviewing our budget from top to bottom, and the hard truth is everything is on the table — including the very real possibility of additional layoffs,” Markowitz said.
The mayor’s office ordered budget reductions for the five borough presidents and city agencies of 2.5 percent this fiscal year, which started July 1, and five percent in the next fiscal year.
The beep’s office didn’t say which positions it had eliminated earlier this year, but Markowitz has come under fire for a workforce that included three drivers motoring seven cars, a $50,000-a-year speechwriter and a $40,000-a-year proclamation writer, plus several staffers who earned extra pay working for Markowitz’s charity, Best of Brooklyn, on the city clock.
The penny-pinching will have an even bigger impact on Markowitz’s discretionary funds. Last year, he could freely sprinkle $2.1 million on projects and organizations in the borough, but that amount has dropped to $302,000 this year.
The names of the recipients of those funds were not available without a Freedom of Information Law request, which has been filed by The Brooklyn Paper.
Markowitz has used the office to be Brooklyn’s top cheerleader, but officially, the borough presidents only play an advisory role on many city decisions. They also appoint representatives to city agencies and community boards.
– with Emily Lavin