A lowering of property taxes, eliminating city sales tax on clothing and footwear, and further revamping of the citys school system highlighted Mayor Bloombergs 2007 State of the City address delivered last week. The speech was delivered before a packed New York City College of Technology auditorium at 285 Jay Street. The sound fiscal policies of the past five years have allowed us to prepare for the future by putting money away for retirees health care and now to lower taxes and put money back in the pockets of our residents, said Bloomberg of his plan to slash property taxes five percent. To that end, my administration will cut taxes for hard working New Yorkers by $1 billion. This will pump money back into our neighborhoods, create jobs, help small businesses and decrease the burden on homeowners, he added. Bloomberg said eliminating city sales tax on clothing and footwear will save New Yorkers $110 million annually. Additionally, Bloomberg said he will continue the $400 property tax rebate, and reduce the Unincorporated Business Tax and give further tax credits to small business owners. Regarding the revamping of city schools, the big news was the mayors announcement that regional offices will be eliminated, thus streamlining bureaucracy and saving money that will be redirected to classrooms. Originally, the regional officesconsisting of a handful of school districts in each officewere envisioned as supervisory bodies meant to link district personnel and parents to the city Department of Educations (DOE) Tweed headquarters. Immediately after the offices opened, parents criticized them as another bureaucratic mess, allowing administrators and region staffers to say, I dont know, when asked questions about specific districts or schools. When we had a problem, I didnt find that the regional staff was especially helpful, said Jim Devor, recording secretary for District 15s Community Education Council. The regions became a mechanism to avoid accountability all together. To support his statement, Devor cited an administrative shakeup that rocked his daughters school, P.S. 58 at 330 Smith Street, last spring. Accused of condoning cheating on standardized exams, the schools then-principal resigned but a replacement was not appointed for two months. And during that time, parents received contradictory information about the status of the position from district, region, and Tweed staffers. I very early on went to the regional superintendent and said its nuts for our school not to have a principal for two months and basically she said thats not my call, its the chancellors, Devor recalled. But when he came around, he said no, thats the regions call. With that in mind, Devor said the elimination of regions is for the best. Additionally, Bloomberg said principals will be given broader powers to determine what tools to use for support services, and the 32 school superintendents will have expanded roles and report directly to the chancellor. In regard to teachers, Bloomberg said the city will work with the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) to bring more accountability to the process of awarding tenure, and principals will be expected to evaluate new teachers and support their professional growth. Restructuring the school system was vital to improving performance, and today graduation rates are at a 20-year high and reading and math scores are up dramatically, said Bloomberg. But we have more to do and the proposals I am outlining for this year will make certain that our schools continue to get better and that our students are better prepared to compete in the global economy of the future, he added. In local development issues, Bloomberg noted the Brooklyn economy is booming resulting in the boroughs unemployment rate being cut almost in half in the past four yearsfrom nine percent in 2002 to 4.7 percent today. Bloomberg also promised a comprehensive rezoning of Coney Island in the year ahead as well as a major renovation of the New York Aquarium, and completion of the education museum in Bedford-Stuyvesants Weeksville Historical Society. Additionally, Bloomberg championed the newly created Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to further promote business and the arts in the downtown corridor, and the construction launch of the $4 Atlantic Yards project. Building on successessound fiscal policies, innovative policy strategies, the overhaul of our education system, the most expansive rezonings in decades, and programs to reduce crime and fight povertywe can continue on to make New York an even better place to live and work, said Bloomberg. Weve come too far to rest on our laurels. Now is the time to continue to advance policies and goals that will continue our city on its upward trajectory, he added. Michèle De Meglio contributed to this story.
©2007 Community News Group
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