New Haven faces a $14.4 million budget deficit as it heads into the final quarter of fiscal year 2018.
The city has faced uncertainty during the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30,
because of late state funding deci- sions that cut municipal aid. At a Board of Alders finance committee on March 12, Acting Budget Director Michael Gormany and City Controller Daryl Jones gave the January 2018 monthly report summary, which estimated the projected deficit based on state aid and department costs and revenues. The $14.4 million deficit is actually a $1.9 million reduction from the projected $16.3 million deficit in the budget report from December 2017. New Haven Public Schools accounted for basically the entire reduction; according to the January 2018 report, the Board of Education is projected to have a $7 million de cit rather than the previously anticipated $9.6 million deficit.
“It’s not uncommon for the city to run a bit behind in its expenditures, and the mayor and her staff are working to trim the sails for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year,” mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said.
According to Grotheer, some of the difficulty in balancing the budget stems from a lack of state aid that was budgeted but has not been realized. The state bud- get debate for fiscal year 2018 was declared the longest fiscal standoff in Connecticut his- tory. Because the state budget was not signed into law until Oct. 31, uncertainty loomed over municipalities who had already begun spending money for the year.
But the uncertainty has not passed. One grant that the city planned for but has not yet received is the Town Aid for Roads, Grotheer noted.
He predicted that this “volatility” in municipal aid will affect discussions about the budget for fiscal 2019. Mayor Toni Harp submitted her fiscal 2019 budget proposal on March 1, and the Board of Alders is currently at work comb- ing through the 476-page document in an effort to reduce an 11 percent tax hike proposed by the mayor.
Ward 5 Alder Dave Reyes, a member of the Board of Alders Finance Committee, described the deficit as concerning, saying he hopes to hear the concerns of his constituents with regard to cuts to this and next year’s budgets.
“I hope community folks are paying attention,” Reyes said.
At the finance meeting on March 12, Budget Director Gormany and City Controller Jones promised to keep the alders updated on a more detailed plan for reducing the de cit, according to the New Haven Independent.
Grotheer noted that the operating budget has been in balance since fiscal 2014, when Harp took office.
“They’re working to make it five in a row,” he said.
As for what services will actually be trimmed to reduce the deficit, Grotheer said that Harp and city officials will look at “all options.” Overtime expenses will be cut, purchases may be postponed and some city positions will likely remain unfilled, he said.
The fire department is now about $1.5 million over budget for fiscal 2018, while the police department is about $2.5 million above the threshold. The majority of additional expenses for the departments in the report stem from overtime pay. Of the departments listed, only the public works department had a projected surplus rather than a deficit.
New Haven’s general fund budget for fiscal year 2018 is approximately $550 million.
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