To balance New Haven’s $29 million budget gap, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. says jobs must be sacrificed.
At his budget proposal presentation in City Hall on Thursday night, DeStefano announced that 27 city employees will be laid off from their jobs today. Though for the first time in four years the mayor will not raise taxes, DeStefano said that the bulk of the gap in budgeting would be made up by aggressive cuts in city employment, including 127 total layoffs by June. The cuts, he said, were the result of the refusal of local unions to compromise with the city.
DeStefano’s presentation possessed none of the buoyant, optimistic rhetoric from his State of the City address Feb. 9. His speech on Thursday, replete with bar graphs and balance sheets, was a nuts-and-bolts explanation of the tough decisions he says are necessary to balance the budget.
“Our goal is just to get to 2010, to get to better times,” DeStefano said after his presentation.
The budget cutbacks were tempered by the announcement that Yale will increase its voluntary payments to the city for fiscal year 2010 by 50 percent, effectively a $2.5 million increase from this year. In addition, DeStefano said he hopes to balance the budget using more than $3 million in expected revenue from the sale of city schools that have been closed in recent years.
DeStefano justified his cuts by citing grim city statistics: Unemployment currently stands at 10 percent, he said, and foreclosures increased by 150 percent two years ago.
This year’s budget proposals remain dependent on whether the state legislature allows the city to delay property re-evaluations for one year. Delaying the re-evaluations will keep residential taxes lower, though critics countered that foregoing the property re-evaluations will only delay and intensify the bitter dose to come.
Standing behind his decisions to cut jobs, DeStefano placed the blame solely on the shoulders of the city’s local unions. Only two of the city’s 14 local unions struck deals with DeStefano to accept salary decreases and pension cutbacks. He called his dealings with the unions “dreadfully regretful” but maintained that labor union representatives risked the livelihoods of their members when they declined to accept the terms laid out by city officials.
“It has been frustrating,” DeStefano said. “Residents value these services that workers provide, and younger workers are going to be thrown under the bus.”
Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield agreed that it was the task of the union representatives, not the mayor, to ensure that city employees did not find themselves without a source of income.
“This has been on the horizon for a long time,” Goldfield said. “The unions just were not willing to work with us. Only a couple small unions watched out for one another.”
But Local 3114 Union President Larry Amendola maintained that the unions did the best they could, saying the mayor was too rigid in his expectations. The concessions that Local 3114 offered, Amendola asserted Thursday, were the most generous of those offered by any of the city’s 14 unions. Given Yale’s additional $2.5 million contribution to the city, DeStefano should have agreed to concessions that were less than his original demands, Amendola said.
“We’re not selfish,” Amendola said. “We did more than our part, but I guess that wasn’t enough for the mayor.”
Those 27 people who are laid off will be notified at 9 a.m. that today will be their last day of work. Three senior centers will also be closed, DeStefano said, though he did not mention which ones. Future layoffs will target paraprofessionsals who assist elementary school classes, DeStefano said. These cuts will be coupled with the addition of 45 officers to the New Haven Police Department, as well as additional Street Outreach Program employees to assist with DeStefano’s outlined target of achieving a reduction in city violence.
The budget faces approval by the Board of Aldermen and would take effect July 1.