Aldermen talk budgeting reappraisal

City Hall officials discussed pensions, a city workers’ wellness program and overtime for public-safety officers at an aldermanic finance meeting Tuesday night.

At the meeting, the finance committee members read a briefing by the Office of Management & Budget about the fiscal year 2008-’09 budget, which starts July 1 and reviewed financial reports for the fiscal year 2006-’07 and January 2008. The rundown went off with few hiccups, but some aldermen raised concerns about budgets for pay and services for police and fire officers.

At a meeting Tuesday of the Finance Committee, of which Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah is the chair, aldermen reviewed a report from the Office of Management & Budget. New Haven’s annual budget will increase by $20.6 million in the next fiscal year
Ge Yang
At a meeting Tuesday of the Finance Committee, of which Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah is the chair, aldermen reviewed a report from the Office of Management & Budget. New Haven’s annual budget will increase by $20.6 million in the next fiscal year

According to the new budget briefing, next year’s budget will increase by 4.61 percent, or $20.6 million. Most of the expenditure increases for the coming year represent minimum automatic increases for annual budgets that are required by the state.

Aldermen asked OMB representatives few specific questions about the report, but the fire budget came under scrutiny when it was noted that funding for fire officers’ overtime had increased by about 33 percent over last year.

City Hall Controller Mark Pietrosimone said the overtime pay will be reduced once the current firefighter class has graduated from the training program. He estimated the firefighter class will contain about 25 members, which would subsequently increase the salary budget by $1.1 million. The infusion of new firefighters will relieve the need for overtime pay, meaning the net increase in budgetary funds will only be $928,000.

The committee then discussed police-office overtime pay, an issue that has riled some community members who at previous meetings have said that unusually high levels of pay are putting an undue burden on tax payers. According to City Hall Budget Director Lawrence Rusconi and documents provided to the aldermen, overtime pay for police officers declined over the last fiscal year.

But Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez asked the budget directors whether they knew how last year’s removal of the NHPD narcotics unit had affected the dip in overtime pay numbers. The budget directors said they did not know.

After the arrests of four police officers for various corruption charges over the last year, City Hall disbanded the narcotics unit and hired the Police Executive Research Forum to suggest internal management reforms. Supervisor of OMB Joe Clerkin said there are slightly fewer NHPD officers now than there were at this time a year ago.

Several aldermen asked presenters about the extent of the City Hall Wellness Program, which provides incentives for city officials to practice healthy lifestyles.

Clerkin said the Wellness Program was meant to cover the “entire population of employee workforce,” but he acknowledged, in response to a question from Ward 7 Alderwoman Francis “Bitsie” Clark, that police and fire-safety employees are not included in the program.

Perez added that this year the New Haven Police Department officers received health advice from an independent contract through the Hospital of St. Raphael, as opposed to the Wellness Program. But Rusconi emphasized that police and fire-safety employees will soon be included in the program, but they did not provide a timeline for when this will happen.

The committee also discussed budget changes to the City Hall self-insurance fund for the 2007 fiscal year. According to documents provided by the office of Management & Budget, the fund was in debt by $14.1 million, a debt about $1.1 million larger than the previous year’s. But the office projects that the debt will drop after a contribution from the city budget’s general fund.

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