CB 8 fears cuts to budget could reduce its staff

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District managers of community boards in Fresh Meadows and Forest Hills blasted a Bloomberg administration proposal to shave off about a quarter of their annual budget, which they said would force them to lay off at least one member of already limited staffs.

“If each board loses one person, and I think it’ll be more than that, it hurts somebody in the community,” said Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide. “Plus, a lot of single parents hold those jobs. If they lose their job, what does that do? The amount we’re being cut, it has such a huge effect on us. If I have three staff members and one and a half has to go, that’s huge. It is really hard.”

CB 8 covers Fresh Meadows, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hill, Holliswood, Kew Gardens Hills and Briarwood.

District managers said their budgets would be cut from $200,000 to $144,000 if the City Council approves Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preliminary budget. District managers have said that would have a devastating impact on staffs that average about two to four people in each of the 59 community board offices in the city.

“We’d have to cut two people if we got down to $144,000, and there would be no money to run the office,” CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said. CB 6 covers Forest Hills and Rego Park.

Gulluscio and Adam-Ovide said they, along with district managers throughout the city, are concerned the move to reduce such a large chunk of their budget is a sign of what is to come when officials revamp the City Charter. District managers have aired concerns since last year’s budget cycle that the Bloomberg administration wants to eliminate community boards altogether.

Bloomberg’s press office did not return phone calls for comment.´╗┐

“We’re the only agency that hasn’t had a major increase [in funding] since 1995,” ´╗┐Gulluscio said. “In the past three years we’ve been cut, cut, cut. What’s the purpose behind that? Do they want to do away with us, and if they do, why?”

Regardless of whether or not Bloomberg actually pulls the plug on community boards, the managers said a $56,000 cut would render them relatively helpless, leaving them with little money to send out mailings about issues like zoning or community hearings.

“We understand everyone has to take a cut in bad economic times, but we’re a grassroots government,” Gulluscio said. “We’re 311 in person.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 5:49 pm, October 10, 2011
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