Karen Lin, Senior Photographer

Alders transferred over $5 million to police and fire overtime and continued their review of New Haven’s budget during their second meeting this month of the Board of Alders Finance Committee.

The committee met on Monday, April 8 at City Hall to deliberate and vote on five fiscal items as well as discuss the mayor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2025. Adam Marchand, the committee chair and Ward 25 alder, and the other alders in attendance first heard from New Haven Chief of Police Karl Jacobson and Budget Director Michael Gormany regarding the transfer of funds from the police department’s salary account to its overtime account.  

“Obviously, we need bodies on the streets, and with the current number of vacancies, that is done on overtime within this budget,” Gormany said.

More specifically, Jacobson requested that the committee approve the transfer of $3.25 million — a surplus from lapsed salaries caused by vacancies — to the overtime account. He informed the committee that such a large amount of money was available because New Haven police currently only have 330 sworn officers. In the previous 10 years, they had an average of 376 sworn officers.

Jacobson also sought an additional $80,000 for training costs. Both the transfer and the increased budget were approved.

Next, the committee heard from Thomas Lamb, chief operating officer of New Haven Public Schools. Lamb asked the committee to authorize the execution of a multi-year agreement with CDW Government LLC to provide the district with their email filter service, which is called “Sophos.” 

Lamb stated that his IT department was already utilizing Sophos under a free pilot program and that it enhanced network and email security. He said that his department felt that it was the appropriate time to enter into an extended contract.

As this item came with a request to expedite, the committee took no action. Instead, Marchand said that he would request that the full board discharge it from the Finance Committee in the Board of Alders on April 15. 

The third item on the agenda, also from Lamb, was about entering into a new multi-year contract with First Student, Inc. to be the sole provider of student transportation services for New Haven Public Schools. The company currently provides school bus services for the school system. For Lamb, it was important to move forward with one provider to prevent confusion for parents and families.

Lamb also informed the committee that First Student was given six months to provide a plan to electrify the entire bus fleet by 2030, something climate activists have sought for years.

“They are the largest provider of electric buses in North America,” Lamb said. “They have an entire division that is devoted just to bus electrification. There is a lot of experience and a lot of depth with the team.”  

The new contract also stipulated that First Student replace 120 of the current 350 buses in the fleet. Like the previous two, this item passed unanimously.

After Lamb, Fire Chief John Alston spoke to the committee and also requested their authorization to transfer funds from salary accounts to overtime accounts. With 56 current vacancies, Alston sought to transfer $2.7 million to the overtime pool and noted that more often than not, senior firefighters are the ones putting in the overtime shifts. Alston explained how this seemed to be evidence of a bigger national issue he sees with the younger generation.

“My generation, when we worked and paid for those types of things, putting our children through college and the like, we worked every overtime we could and sometimes two or three jobs if we could,” Alston said. “That’s not necessarily the situation, and it’s a nationwide issue. We’re not the only ones dealing with it.”  

This motion also carried.

After the Finance Committee read and filed the updated budgetary and financial reports for February 2024, they began the workshop portion of their meeting to discuss budgetary proposals for 2025.

Joseph Vitale, director of Public Safety Communications, kicked off the second half of the meeting by outlining the mayor’s proposed budget for his department. In 2023, they took 164,949,911 calls and the department currently has 36 total employees. 

For 2025, their department’s proposed budget was increased by $228,173, with most of the new funds going towards paying personnel and rebuilding and upgrading existing equipment.

“We’re the first of the first responders. We’re answering every single call that comes into the city that goes out to police and fire,” Vitale said.

Vitale detailed how he is looking to break the department into administrative and technological sides and that he wants to hire a deputy director of administration.

Lastly, the Finance Committee heard from the Engineering Department and the Chief Administrative Office, both of which supported the funding proposals for their departments. 

The next public hearing will be on April 18, which will also mark the final budgetary workshop.

Tommy Gannon covers men's ice hockey. He is a first-year in Branford college majoring in history and economics.