Yesterday, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, Mark Page, sent a letter (PDF, via City Room) to the head of nearly every City agency, informing them of impeding budget cuts due to the ongoing crisis on Wall Street. The letter instructed them to reduce their budgets by 2.5% this fiscal year (which began July 1) and 5% next fiscal year, which will amount to $1.5 billion in total cuts.

This morning, OMB sent another letter to all community board district managers, outlining exactly how these cuts will affect the boards. According to this letter, community boards will receive a $5,000 budget cut this fiscal year, and a $9,491 cut next fiscal year. The $9,491 cut is in addition to a previously proposed $10,000 cut for fiscal year 2010. For the 2009 fiscal year, the City Council restored this $10,000 to community board budgets in response to public outcry, including testimony to the City Council from the Municipal Art Society Planning Center, which staffs the Campaign for Community-Based Planning. However, this restoration is not likely to happen again considering worsening economic conditions.

In summary, community boards face cuts from their current budget of $199,000, to $194,895 this year, and $180,404 next year.

As the MAS testimony pointed out, “The average community district has a population of over 130,000 people, making it comparable in size to Elizabeth, New Jersey and Albany, New York. All board responsibilities are carried out by a very small staff typically consisting of the district manager and one or two administrative assistants. Any extra personnel, such as planners, must be paid from funds raised beyond the board’s… annual budget—which also pays for all salaries, office supplies, equipment, printing, and mailing.”

Community boards now face the prospect of increasing demands for services brought about by rising unemployment, the housing crisis, and the skyrocketing cost of living in the City. The balancing act of attending to immediate constituent needs while solving neighborhood-level problems will become next-to-impossible when budgets are stretched to the limit. Susan Stetzer, District Manager of Manhattan Community Board 3, said, “We’re very literally going to be doing more with less.” She went on to say that this year’s cuts will be difficult but manageable. However, she said, “Next year, I don’t know how we can exist.”

All boards and other agencies are expected to send in their budget reduction plans by October 8.

A few agencies, such as the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of Buildings, are exempt from the cuts because they are supported partially by fees.