Budget Watchdog Warns on Construction Costs

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Construction at the World Trade Center site in April 2008 Construction at the World Trade Center site in April 2008 (derek7272/flickr)

An independent commission is raising a warning flag about the cost of the city's capital construction campaign.

The Citizens Budget Commission recommends slowing the pace of the city's big ticket construction projects because of the rising cost of financing them. The city's planning a new police academy, more than 330 schools, and federally mandated water-quality improvement projects. The commission's Maria Doulis says the rising annual debt service for these and other projects will make it harder to balance the city's books.

"It is $6.6 billion out of the budget," Doulis says. "That's about as much as we spend on the police department and the fire department -- combined."

The commission says the city should cut $1.6 billion in economic development construction projects. "We're not sure what a lot of them are," Doulis says. "We're not sure what the rationale is behind them. We're not sure they make good economic sense, so we think, given the fiscal crunch, they should at least be stalled if not eliminated all together."

A spokesman for the Bloomberg administration says the mayor has already made cuts to the capital plan and does not want to defer critical investments in the city's infrastructure.

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