What to Look for in the City's New Ten-Year Capital Strategy
Along with the Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2016, this week Mayor Bill de Blasio will unveil a Ten-Year Capital Strategy, the City’s blueprint for long-term capital investments. A preliminary version of the Strategy, totaling $67.7 billion in capital commitments, was presented in February. By the Administration’s own admission, it was less of a blueprint and more of a rough sketch. Important details, including the financing plan, were missing, making the Strategy difficult to evaluate. The revision should answer the following questions:
- Is the plan affordable?
- How are the infrastructure priorities in OneNYC integrated into the Strategy, and how much will they cost?
- Does the Strategy include cost and performance information?
- What is the timetable for achieving state of good repair?
The Preliminary Strategy was $14 billion greater than the last ten-year plan developed in the Bloomberg administration. The City borrows to pay for its capital investments, and its debt is high according to metrics used by the rating agencies. Debt supported directly by City tax dollars is now about 8 percent of real property values, well above the affordability benchmark of 5 percent. Debt outstanding has already surpassed $100 billion—how much more will be issued and what benchmarks will be used to determine affordability?
Each agency should describe how its capital spending plans advance the goals of OneNYC, and funding for specific OneNYC infrastructure initiatives should be clearly identified.
In order to assess priorities and performance, agency plans should be accompanied by information on per-unit costs and performance targets—which have rarely been included in the past. For example, how many street lane miles does the Department of Transportation expect to repave? How many schools will the School Construction Authority build, and how much is that expected to cost per square foot?
New Yorkers know firsthand the infrastructure and assets in their neighborhoods are in need of repair: their streets may be riddled with potholes, the neighborhood playground may need repair, or their library could use a new roof. Most agencies track the condition of their assets closely; the Strategy should incorporate information from those assessments and clearly spell out how much of state of good repair needs will be addressed by the proposed investments, and how quickly.
By Maria Doulis