Budget officials brief aldermen

City budget officials briefed the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee Thursday night on Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s budget proposals.

Budget director Larry Rusconi said every city department with the exception of the Board of Education will see cuts to their budgets. While he said he has not seen a city budget in which cuts are so widespread, the layoffs DeStefano announced Feb. 17 were part of a larger trend. City Hall employs 20 percent fewer people than it did in 2001.

“We’re operating under severe constraints this year,” Rusconi said.

City services are being negatively affected by the reductions, Rusconi said, adding that he believes the city would have been better able to respond to this year’s unusually heavy snowfall with more workers.

Aldermen questioned the budget officials about the city’s revenue projections in DeStefano’s proposed budget.

In particular, the mayor’s budget assumes $7 million in savings from privatizing custodial services in the city’s public schools, but the city is currently in a state arbitration process with the custodial workers union. The city and the union are scheduled to make presentations to the state arbitrator in May, Rusconi said.

If arbitration prevents the privatization, the city is confident it will win other concessions from the custodial workers, said Office of Management and Budget staffer Becky Bombero.

Failing that, Rusconi said, the city will have to compensate with cuts in other areas of the budget.

Rusconi added that he has heard rumors among state lawmakers that Gov. Dannel Malloy may be preparing a revised state budget, which would have an impact on the revenue projections the city builds into its budget. While he did not say whether he believes the revisions would place a burden on the city, Rusconi said the rumors are an “ominous” sign.

Rusconi noted one reason to be optimistic about the city’s fiscal future, noting New Haven’s nearly three percent growth in its tax base, the fastest in the state.

The Finance Committee will review the budgets of several city departments at its next meeting Mar. 31.

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