The Independent Budget Office:Enhancing Official and Public Understanding of the Budget

As required by sections 252 and 260 of the New York City Charter

The City of New York
Independent Budget Office

May 28, 1996


The City of New York's newest municipal agency, the Independent Budget Office (IBO), commenced operations on February 20, 1996 with the hire of its first employee. Established by voters through the New York City Charter revisions of November 1989, it is the mission of IBO to provide expert, nonpartisan analysis on fiscal and budgetary issues facing the City.

The agency's principal clients are the Comptroller, the Public Advocate, members and committees of the City Council, the Borough Presidents, and the City's 59 Community Boards. Modeled after the Congressional Budget Office and the State of California's Legislative Analyst's Office, IBO will undertake its analysis without regard to political consideration in order to empower the City's public officials to exercise informed and independent judgment on fiscal and budgetary matters.

This report is submitted pursuant to the requirements of sections 252 and 260 of the New York City Charter. Section 252, as amended by Local Law 33 of 1996, directs the agency to publish a report analyzing the executive budget by May 28, 1996. Section 260 requires, among other things, that IBO periodically publish reports to enhance official and public understanding of the budgetary process and the various budget documents required by the Charter.

The IBO has made steady progress toward fulfilling its Charter mandated responsibilities since its inception just three months ago. However, due to limited staff resources and severe time and logistical constraints, the agency has not been able to complete the report required by section 252 in the manner envisioned for future years. Nevertheless, the following report does provide an abbreviated analysis of the Mayor's Executive Budget in the form of a citizen's guide to the New York City budget and its related processes.

For the 1997 budget process, IBO initially will be able to provide information and analysis on a relatively small number of issues. The agency's capabilities, however, will expand dramatically within the next three months as IBO becomes fully staffed and operational. Once fully functional, IBO will comment on budget modifications, conduct fiscal impact statements of proposed local laws, issue reports on various matters affecting the budget, and act as a resource to the public and the officials it was created to assist.

This report begins with a chapter that provides an overview of IBO's plans for its 1997 and subsequent annual reports, along with a discussion of IBO, its mission and its plans for the future. Chapter 2 provides a discussion of NYC's existing budget problems from an historical perspective, from the events leading to the fiscal crisis of 1975 to the present. Chapter 3 contains information regarding the sources of City revenues and spending, with a focus on the Mayor's 1997 executive budget. The final chapter presents a description of the City's annual budget cycle and corresponding budget documents.

All staff of the Independent Budget Office contributed to this report. Chapter 1 was prepared by Douglas A. Criscitello, Chapter 2 by Ronnie Lowenstein, Chapter 3 by Amy Bachrach, C. Spencer Nelms, Jr., and Frank L. Posillico, and Chapter 4 by Terri C. Matthews. Technical and editorial assistance was provided by Herbert Block, Eric L. Dixon, Kevin Koshar, Ritta McLaughlin, Nancy Penksa, David Roberts and Sarah Coyle.


The Independent Budget Office:
Enhancing Official and Public Understanding of the Budget