- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York City Council voted to adopt the city’s $78.5 billion budget agreement Friday, moving to expand services for the less fortunate and begin the process of expanding the nation’s largest police force.

By a vote of 46-1 with one abstention and two absences, the fiscal year 2016 budget passed and will go into effect Wednesday. At the centerpiece of the deal, brokered by the staffs of Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, was the surprising decision to hire 1,300 police officers.

The new officers, who were announced amid a headline-grabbing surge in crime in certain neighborhoods, will cost the city $170 million. The costs will be offset by $70 million in savings, largely by creating a cap on department overtime. About 300 of the new officers will be assigned to counterterrorism.

Some councilmembers voiced complaints about the additional officers, but only one voted against the proposal and the vote proceedings lacked the political theatrics that have marked previous budget votes.

“I believe $170 million for police is a failed flaw,” said Councilwoman Inez Barron of Brooklyn.

The hires were first reported by The Associated Press. They will join a force of about 35,000 uniformed officers, the nation’s largest.

Additionally, the budget authorizes the hiring of 400 administrative aides to take over desk jobs currently filled by police officers. Those officers will then be freed up to be deployed on the street for increased community policing.

A year ago, de Blasio flatly denied Mark-Viverito’s call to hire 1,000 new officers, pointing to record low crime rates and suggesting that the resources would be better used elsewhere to fulfill the mayor’s vision of a liberal, activist government that would better the lives of the less fortunate.

For much of the past year, de Blasio did not waver. But a push by Police Commissioner William Bratton to get the new officers for his plan to expand the police department’s community policing played a key role in changing the mayor’s mind.

The mayor’s about-face was even more surprising considering that the final number - 1,297 officers, the first major headcount increase in decades - exceeded what the council requested. But de Blasio denied that a recent spike in murders and shootings factored into his thinking.

The budget deal was a clear win for Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, who has shaken off early concerns that she would not challenge de Blasio, a longtime ally. Beyond the police hires, several of her other proposals were adopted, including the creation of a $1.4 million bail fund for those charged with low level offenses yet stuck in the city’s jails.

She presided over the proceedings, praising council initiatives and noting that the vote, usually a late night affair, was taken place while the sun still shone Friday afternoon.

“It is daytime,” said Mark-Viverito, who drew a sharp contrast with how the state budget was brokered in leadership meetings behind closed doors. “There were no ‘three men in the room’ here. Three women of color negotiated this budget. It is an inclusive and democratic City Council.”

The budget, up from $75 billion a year ago, also includes $39 million to keep city libraries open six days a week, $21 million for mental health programs, nearly $12 million to bolster struggling schools and $17.9 million to begin phasing-in free breakfast at all city elementary schools, which would serve 339,000 students by fiscal year 2018.

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