Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and representatives of the borough’s community boards rallied on the steps of Borough Hall, Tuesday, April 13th to support the restoration of proposed funding cuts in the city’s $64 billion budget that threaten their future.
“The staffing at our 14 community boards now is generally only one or two full-time employees with a small amount of funding for support services,” said Marshall, who served on her local community board for more than a dozen years.
Each of the boards is currently facing a reduction in funding of more than $17,000 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed $63.6 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st.
“There is no question that reducing the board to a full-time district manger and one part-time individual will limit the board’s ability to perform their City-Charter-mandated functions,” stated Marshall.
At an all-day public hearing held in February, Marshall and members of her Borough Board heard numerous boards testify about the dire effects of additional proposed cuts in the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget. Community Board 7, the largest of the city’s 59 boards with 259,000 residents within its borders, testified that reduced funding would result in reduced staffing.
Community board representatives consistently testified that the cuts could dramatically effect staffing and supplies. The boards, which have suffered from continuing reductions in funding in recent years, are slated for another five percent reduction starting July 1st.
Marshall has consistently said that she will rigorously resist any effort to diminish the role of the boards in local government. “These boards help us to perfect democracy by bringing City Hall to neighborhoods directly affected by proposals that affect land use, city services, parks and a multitude of other issues,” she declared. At her swearing-in last January, Marshall vowed to “oppose any effort to stifle their (community boards) voices.
The former “Community Planning Boards” and “Little City Halls” were strengthened more than three decades ago when the 1975 City Charter was adopted, giving the boards roles in neighborhood land use, preparation of the capital and expense budgets and delivery of local city services. The role of the boards was reaffirmed in the Charter adopted in 1989.
Each community board has up to 50 members who serve staggered terms of two years. Members serve without compensation.