Representatives of New York City’s six top prosecutors lobbied city council members last week to increase the funding Mayor Michael Bloomberg had included for their agencies in his preliminary 2013-14 budget.
The money proposed for the city’s five district attorney offices and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor overall is virtually the same as the agencies were allocated in the budget originally adopted for this year.
However, the total is 8.2 percent less than this fiscal year’s modified spending. The budget is modified four times each year to include revenue brought in by the offices, as well as state and federal grants received after the adoption of the budget, according to Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor.
The preliminary budget includes $270,929,104 for the prosecutors, compared to the $271,624,567 adopted for 2011-12. With modifications, this year’s approved spending is $295,221,266.
In past years, the council routinely has appropriated additional money for the prosecutors.
“We need to have that money at the beginning of the fiscal year,” Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said at a March 15 hearing of the council’s Public Safety Committee.
John Ryan, the chief assistant district attorney for Queens, who represented District Attorney Richard A. Brown at the hearing, agreed.
Since prosecutors do not know how much money they eventually will receive, “it is virtually impossible to plan a district attorney’s budget,” Mr. Ryan said.
The lack of reliable funding hurts prosecutors’ ability to offer their assistants a competitive salary, argued Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr. While a police officer with 5 1/2 years of experience earns more than $90,000, Mr. Donovan said a Staten Island assistant district attorney with similar experience earns about $62,200 and often has more than $100,000 in law school debt. Students directly out of law school earn $62,038 at the New York City Law Department.
“As the economy gets better, we are going to lose people” to higher-paying jobs, Mr. Donovan said.
He also requested $250,000 for his Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities, which places non-violent drug offenders in treatment instead of jail.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. focused his testimony on the need to increase funding to fight cybercrime. Calling the Internet the “crime scene of the 21st century,” Mr. Vance noted that his office handles 400 new identity theft and cybercrime cases each month.
Mr. Vance also advocated additional funding for crime prevention. In particular, he touted programs that provide both summer employment and places for teens to go on weekend nights.
“The ability to fund crime prevention is among the most important money we can receive to make our city safer,” he said.
Amy Feinstein, Brooklyn’s chief assistant district attorney, who appeared on behalf of District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, highlighted the office’s programs to resolve outstanding warrants, buy back guns and provide education and alternatives to incarceration for youthful offenders.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget B. Brennan called the illegal use of prescription drugs an “epidemic.”
“This is a public education challenge, a public health challenge and a challenge to the criminal justice system,” Ms. Brennan said.
The mayor’s preliminary budget also includes $141,725,146 for the City Law Department, a $430,000 increase over its final 2012 budget. The Law Department’s spending was not on the agenda of last week’s hearing.
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