Mayor Toni Harp gave raises this year to 37 of her top aides, even as the city approved a new budget that includes a controversial 11 percent task hike.
These 37 aides are what the city calls its “executive management and confidential employees” — staffers who are not covered by a union contract. Before Harp took office, the Elm City would traditionally give these employees raises that corresponded with the salary increases granted to members of AFSCME Local 3144, the union that represents the city’s professional and management employees.
But since she took office in 2014, Harp has granted these raises inconsistently. Some of executive management and confidential employees, such as city comptroller Daryl Jones, had not received a raise in four years, while others, like youth services chief Jason Bartlett, received a raise as recently as last year.
The latest round of raises, which went into effect last week, have proved contentious, as they come in the middle of a fiscal crisis. At the end of May — despite resounding community displeasure — the Board of Alders approved an 11 percent property tax hike for New Haven residents starting on July 1, as part of the city’s 2018-19 budget.
In addition, the New Haven charter states that the mayor must ask the Board of Alders for approval before granting any salary increases to executive management and confidential employees. After the New Haven Independent reported that Harp had granted the 37 raises, the aldermanic leadership released a statement saying the board has launched a formal investigation into the matter and that the raises were not “communicated to” or approved by the board.
“As a board we take our responsibility to our constituents very seriously and we will be taking appropriate steps based on our findings,” the board’s leadership said in the statement.
At a pension fund meeting on Friday morning, Harp responded to criticism of the raises, saying the increases match the raises granted this year to members of AFSCME Local 3144, according to the Independent. In April, the city negotiated a new contract with AFSCME Local 3144 in which members agreed to pay a greater percentage of their medical costs in exchange for their first raises in years.
At the meeting on Friday, Harp said that without the raises she granted, some of the executive management employees would make less than subordinates of theirs who belong to the union. As for the aldermanic investigation, Harp said she is not required to report such raises as long as the increases fall within the salary ranges already approved by the board.
But legal or not, New Haven residents and alders are not happy with Harp’s decision.
Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19, who ran as an independent but caucuses with the Democrats, said “just because something is legal does not mean that it’s right.” And the New Haven Republicans said in a Facebook post that the money appeared “like magic,” even as Democrats included an 11 percent tax hike in the budget.
Harp is the first African-American woman to serve as New Haven mayor.