City navigates crisis

In one fell swoop, aldermen voted to investigate both an expansion and reduction in spending.

The Finance Committee of the Board of Aldermen met Wednesday evening to discuss a proposed addition to the Office of Economic Development and a steering committee on the feasibility of a four-day work week for city employees.

The office proposed to convert a currently vacant position in the Corporation Counsel, which provided legal advice to the city, to an exclusively Economic Development counsel position. The job, with a $110,000 salary, would streamline the current legal process and help the office act in a more timely manner, Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy said.

The Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff Sean Matteson said the economic development office is another tool to encourage growth in New Haven.

“There are a number of projects underway that warrant this position,” Matteson said, “I can’t think of a better position at this time that can encourage growth.”

Murphy agreed with Matteson, pointing out that New Haven is experiencing a great boom in construction and development. Specifically, she said the Route 34 project is very complicated and requires legal counsel.

“New Haven is a great place when people invest,” Murphy said, “but time is money, and people need to be able to move quickly on development projects.”

This staffing increase comes in light of the recent layoffs of city employees.

“In my opinion, anything that is a revenue-generating position is a benefit to the city,” Matteson said.

He explained that one of the best ways for the city to increase revenue is to increase its taxable base. Matteson said currently, more than 47 percent of the city’s grand list of real estate is non-taxable, and that anything that increases the tax base will help the city out, especially in light of budget and staffing cuts.

After the presentation of the proposal, Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez questioned how the staffing change would affect the Corporation Counsel, which he said was historically understaffed. Perez abstained on the vote.

Another issue considered on the agenda was a steering committee proposed by Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez to investigate the feasibility of a four-day work week for city employees. The vote passed unanimously.

Rodriguez said currently 12 Connecticut cities have a four-day work week and 11 other cities are considering switching.

“Our residents are stretched to the max, and this is a chance to cut the expense side of the budget,” Rodriguez said.

Wednesday marked the final meeting of the Finance Committee this year.

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