Budget cuts for New Haven ‘manageable,’ DeStefano says

The Connecticut budget that goes into effect this weekend will have only a small effect on New Haven, but its impact on organizations providing social services to the city’s neediest is as yet undetermined, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said.

Preliminary examinations of the budget show that Gov. M. Jodi Rell and legislators have largely lived up to their pledge to “hold-harmless” the state’s 169 towns and cities — preserving funding for the various grants that make up the vast portion of state aid to municipalities. The payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) and the city’s share of casino slot machine revenue saw the sharpest cuts, making up nearly all of the $7 million in state aid to the city that was cut, a figure which DeStefano said Thursday could have been either better or worse.

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“It could have been anything,” said DeStefano of the state budget, “but for the city, it is manageable.”

Still, DeStefano said, there are a number of local nonprofit organizations that will face reduced funding as a result of the state’s budget. The AIDS Interfaith Network lost $100,000 in funding, while $200,000 a year over two years for Centro San Jose, Hill Cooperative Youth Services and the Central YMCA and $155,000 for Main Street Initiatives, was cut.

Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield, who on Thursday said he has yet to review the full budget, said he was nevertheless relieved the General Assembly passed one at all. He noted that the city had been forced to pass a budget in May, without knowing at the time how much it would later receive from the state, a mismatch which often leads to guesswork, he said.

“Since our fiscal year begins earlier than the state’s, we are always holding our breath,” Goldfield said.

The mayor said he will approach the Board of Aldermen later this fall to reconcile the city’s budget with what the state actually paid out. He said there will be some slight adjustments to revenue and spending.

Jeffrey Beckham, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management, called the state’s budget largely a “ledger of numbers,” whose details will be sorted out through additional legislation in the coming weeks.

“We haven’t completed our analysis of the bill,” he said, alluding to his department’s analysis of legislation independent of the General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, which released a summary of the bill earlier this week. “But we expect to be negotiating the implementation of the budget until the end of the month.”

While the full list of agencies and organizations that will see reductions as part of the state’s belt tightening will not be available until the implementation bills become law, a handful of key city nonprofits lost money at the last minute by Rell’s use of the line-item veto.

And despite a quickly corrected communication from Rell’s office to the contrary, Tweed-New Haven Airport will receive $1.5 million from the state for its operations, down from the $2 million it initially requested, but more than it received in previous years.

The bottom line, explained Nicholas Perna, an economic advisor to Rell and a lecturer in the Yale economics department, is that now municipalities can move forward.

“Is any budget better than no budget, I don’t know,” he said, “but now we can get on with the business of governing our state.”

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