Mayor unveils budget cuts

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. proposed raising taxes 6.1 percent and slashing $8 million in costs in order to close the city’s $45 million budget deficit when he presented his $670 million budget for the fiscal year 2010-’11 Monday at City Hall. The one thing DeStefano ruled out: more layoffs at City Hall.

DeStefano said he planned the budget so that the city can continue to work on its three major initiatives: school reform, public safety, and job growth.

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In order to determine where the city can cut additional costs and increase revenue, the mayor will be meeting each month with managers from city departments and DeStefano said the meetings may result in additional layoffs, just not from City Hall.

“I felt [further layoffs] would compromise our ability to accomplish our three big goals and to keep New Haven moving forward,” DeStefano said. Over the last decade the city has eliminated a third of City Hall positions.

In the budget DeStefano also laid out 10 areas on which the city can focus to increase savings and revenue, such as by privatizing certain city operations and investigating ways to make the public school system, which accounts for 37 percent of the city’s costs, more efficient.

The mayor’s budget allocates $3 million more to the school district for the coming fiscal year than last year’s budget did. Still, Ward 23 alderman and aldermanic finance committee chair Yusuf Shah said the city may need to reduce the number of administrators under the Board of Education to reduce costs.

“We may need to go to bare-bones staffing over there,” Shah said. Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield said layoffs in education will likely be realized by leaving vacant positions unfilled.

The budget proposal also said that the city will work to save $1 million by negotiating with city labor unions as contracts come up for renewal.

The city also needs to look at what it is spending in overtime costs for the police and fire departments, Shah said. DeStefano said that the budget will fund 35 police recruits and 12 fire recruits, as well as promotions in both departments.

Shah said he would not like to see any increases in funding to any department and tax increases are going to be “hard for the constituents to swallow.”

Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 said the next round of cuts would be challenging.

“Anything easy we would have done in the past,” he said.

In the budget DeStefano also lowered his expectations compared to past years about the amount of state funding New Haven will receive in the next fiscal year. For the past two years the city assumed it would receive more state funding than Governor M. Jodi Rell proposed in her state budget, but this year the city is counting on only as much state funding as proposed in the governor’s budget.

Ward 9 Alderman and finance committee member Roland Lemar said he thinks that DeStefano made the “right call” in lowering expectations about how much funding the city would receive from the state.

The mayor will hold a briefing about the budget at the finance committee meeting this Wednesday.

Correction: March 2, 2010

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the “By the Numbers” graphic accompanying this article misreported the time period for which New Haven’s budget is $670 million. It is fiscal year 2010-’11, not 2009-’10.

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