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School-Building Train Hits A Roadblock

by Thomas MacMillan | May 4, 2012 8:18 am

(30) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Schools, City Budget

Helene Grant, New Haven Academy and Hyde schools may not get new or renovated homes if a new budget-trimming proposal becomes law.

The proposal emerged Thursday night at a meeting of the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee. The committee began its final look at the mayor’s proposed $468.8 million budget. In the process, two lawmakers proposed an amendment that would prevent the city from borrowing $42 million to build the three new schools.

It was one of three amendments put forward by Aldermen Justin Elicker and Doug Hausladen at Thursday evening’s budget meeting. Click here to read two of them.

The Finance Committee gathered in City Hall for the penultimate in a series of meeting it has been holding on the proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The Committee will hold its final meeting on May 17, before the budget heads to the full board for a vote on May 29.

Thomas MacMillan Photo The committee discussed Elicker and Hausladen’s proposals, but did not vote on them. The committee will vote on those amendments—along with any new ones—and the rest of the budget at its May 17 meeting.

The committee did approve a measure that will allow the police chief to hire more cops. But it did not approve a plan to hire a new social-media-savvy communications manager for the police department.

Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for coverage of previous budget deliberations.

In recent weeks committee has heard testimony from all city departments on why they deserve their piece of the budget pie. And lawmakers have heard from neighborhood taxpayers, many of whom have asked them to rein in spending and borrowing.

A number of taxpayers have specifically requested that the city not borrow $42 million to pay for the construction of three new or renovated schools: Hyde, New Haven Academy, and Helene Grant.

One of the proposed Elicker-Hausladen amendments addresses just that request. It would reduce the proposed $42.3 million in school-construction bonding to $0. The city can’t afford it, the aldermen argue.

School officials have testified that the building projects are essential because current facilities are inadequate.

Payments to debt continue to take up a large part of the city budget, Elicker said. “It’s time to slow that down.” Eliminating more borrowing is one of the easiest ways to do that, he said. There must be other options to deal with poor school facilities, ones that don’t entail borrowing tens of millions of dollars, he said.

Other aldermen suggested that the city could spend less money and do more modest renovations.

Elicker and Hausladen also put forward a budget amendment that would take out the proposed addition of 12 new job positions, saving $628,809. That amendment would save even more over the long run, if you factor in the pension and health benefit payments to which those new employees would be entitled, Elicker said.

Elicker and Hausladen’s plan would mean only six new positions are created instead of 18 as the mayor has proposed. The amendments would fund two new 911 dispatchers and four parking enforcement positions. The parking positions are for meter monitoring and would generate more revenue than eliminating them would save, Elicker said.

Among the positions the mayor has proposed funding that the amendment would not fund are two new positions in finance, a librarian, the police chief’s communications manager, a fire department drillmaster, a part-time clerk for elderly services, a deputy director for the Youth Services Department, three public works staffers, a project manager for the engineering department, and a senior loan officer for the economic development department.

“Once you have an employee, it’s really difficult to eliminate that position because all of us know that person and some of our constituents know that person,” Elicker said after the meeting. “Also, when you create a new position, you’re creating health and pension expenses for many, many years to come. ... One of the easiest things to do is eliminate positions that aren’t yet people.”

The pair of aldermen’s third amendment would compel the city to “conduct a statistical revaluation prior to Fiscal Year 2014-15 to be used to determine the taxable grand list for the Fiscal Year 2014-15 Budget.” That proposal is designed to “even out” property values, which spiked this year in several neighborhoods, causing some tax bills to skyrocket.

Communications Manager Nixed; Sidewalk Plan Propped

Also Thursday night, the Finance Committee considered an item affecting the current year’s budget for the police department. The committee voted to allow the chief to hire more police officers, but not to create and fill a new civilian position—a “Community Communications Manager.” When Chief Dean Esserman originally pitched the communications idea to the committee on Monday, aldermen balked and postponed a decision to Thursday night’s meeting.

The no vote means that the chief can’t hire a communications manager immediately. But the position is still in the budget for next year, unless the Elicker-Hausladen amendment is successful in removing it.

The Finance Committee also heard an update on a measure that its sub-committee has been working on—a plan for the equitable distribution of paving, tree-trimming, and sidewalk repair funds throughout the city. The idea belongs to Wooster Square Alderman Mike Smart, who pitched it as a way to give aldermen power over a major city-services deliverable, and take it out of the hands of the mayor.

Smart said negotiations with the administration on the proposal “went south” after a couple of meetings. Aldermen are still working on the plan, and passed a budget amendment in the meantime that will prevent the city from moving on any paving, tree-trimming, sidewalk repairs until aldermen have a new system for allocating the resources equitably.

The Independent reported live from the Aldermanic Chamber Thursday night. Read on for a live blog of the aldermanic action.

Live Blog

5:58 p.m.: Two minutes before the meeting starts. Aldermen are arriving. Committee Chair Andrea Jackson-Brooks is here, along with Aldermen Jorge Perez, Evette Hamilton, Al Paolillo, Jessica Holmes, and Justin Elicker.

6:02: Jackson-Brooks calls the meeting to order, reads the agenda. Aldermen Doug Hausladen and Jeanette Morrison walk in. Alderman Mike Smart has also arrived.

6:05: The first item on the agenda is Smart’s sidewalk proposal. Smart (pictured), not a member of the committee, sits to testify.

Smart reports on the work of the subcommittee. He says: The first two meetings went well, building up to a proposed ordinance. “Our third meeting went south.” Things went back to “hell in a hand-basket.” ... For decades the administration has used sidewalks, trees, street pavings, as a way of penalizing aldermen for not supporting the administration agenda. ... This should never happen again. ... There should be a transparent, participatory process. ... City law says aldermen have control over this. ... We’re dealing with a sidewalk budget of $1 million. ... The tree budget is $350,000. ... For street paving, $750,000 would be divided among 15 wards: Odd wards on odd years, even on even. ... Emergency paving and sidwalks: $150,000 each, to address emergencies. ... I have a constituent in Fair Haven who’s never had a sidewalk. How do you address that? We need an open process. In my ward, I would have an alderman’s night in—see what we can target.

6:15: Alderwoman Migdalia Castro arrives.

Smart continues to ask for support for the proposal. He says: It’s important that we pass this. It should be a fair process. ... I’ll take questions. I ask that we pass this, move this item.

6:17: Elicker: I’m looking at a huge area increase in my wards with a new, redistricted, ward map. I’m looking at taking on the landfill, the dump—a giant ward. Was there any discussion of how to manage that with a $60,000 sidewalk budget every two years?

Smart: A lot of people are looking at ward expansion. Maybe we’ll need more funding for this.

Elicker: Your wish is that we continue discussion and not vote on it?

Smart: I’m going to defer to colleagues.

Elicker: How do I deal with abutting two odd[-numbered] wards? [Elicker is in Ward 10.] What about sharing street repair work across wards?

Hamilton: Exactly. What if half a sidewalk is in my ward and then the other half in another ward? Issues like that need to be discussed. ... There should be adequate funding. This is a priority. The whole board needs to sit down and discuss it, because it effects all of us. ... Money is of key importance. We don’t have enough money. ... People’s taxes are going up $20,000 to $40,000, we should be able to tell them they can have a sidewalk. ... If you don’t know someone in public works, your sidewalk is not going to get repaired. “That stops now.” [She’s rapping on the table.]

6:23: Elicker: The criticism is that the mayor is politicizing things. Is there a possibility that by giving it to 30 aldermen, it’s going to be politicized also? Not with the current board, but maybe in the future, one or two aldermen might trade favors for sidewalks.

Morrison: The language says a group has to identify the need. We have the responsibility of giving the people a voice. I know someone who hasn’t seen her sidewalk or street fixed in 20 years. Ridiculous. ... “People have to beg and plead and give their first born to get a new sidewalk.”

Castro asks about the timing, even and odd: Maybe some people can wait a few years, based on street need.

6:27: Hausladen: If we’re going to have a trial period, it should be two years, not one. ... There was a Pavement Condition Index that ranked how bad things went. But there should be prioritization for busier streets.

Smart: That was the intent at the third meeting, to go over that. Things went south. ... President Perez gave me a couple of suggestions: Independent review to rank the need, and a committee process.

Hausladen: Legal responsibility for sidewalk repair—It’s the property owner’s responsibility, unless the problem is caused by the city.

Smart: Mostly it’s city tree roots that cause the problem.

6:31: Holmes: We’ve got a lot of the right sentiment going. A few things warrant further discussion. One is that the fund is divided equally among the 15 wards. There is going to be a variability of need. I hope we can craft language to deal with that. ... In my area there has been a lot of repaving due to sewer separation. In other wards, that’s not the case. Maybe they should be bumped up the list.

Perez: I agree that more dialogue needs to happen and it should be done quickly.

Smart: Who is better than the alderman to know what is best for his or her ward? I’m willing to work on crafting this more.

6:34: Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts (pictured) sits to testify: We spent over six hours working on this over three meetings. We agree on goals: transparency, equitable distributions. This coming year we have an increase in funding for sidewalk repair. I’ve heard the concerns about this being politicized. I’m sure that has happened in the past. As somebody concerned about integrity, I’d like to make sure we view this as a fair process. ... I’m going to outline a couple of issues. ... There’s great variability in size. I picked two wards, 1 and 17. Ward 1 has 473,000 square feet of streets. Ward 17 has over 2 million. “That’s a tremendous difference.” ... Same thing with condition. I took Alderman Elicker’s Ward 10, which recently had sewer separation. There’s 58,000 square feet there with a condition grade of less than 65. In Ward 17 it is 814,593 feet. Another big difference. ... “Just dividing things up equally between wards isn’t equal.” ... The amount left over for safety funds isn’t enough. We spend a lot on trip-and-fall hazards. Slab-grinding is helping us knock these out. ... I have other concerns with how this is going to be laid out. ... I think having aldermen have more of a role makes sense. A more transparent process makes sense. Resident input makes sense. “But I would urge that for infrastructure we don’t try to divide up the city too much. ... You really make it impossible to meet the infrastructure needs of the city.” “If we try to Balkanize this” it’s going to be more costly and less efficient and “it will leave our constituents frustrated.” ... The administration and aldermen should work together on this.

6:42: Perez asks a question about the communications manager: Would that person replace or join Officer Dave Hartman in communications?

Smuts: The chief intends to keep Hartman doing a lot of communications, probably more internally.

Elicker: This is an additional position?

Smuts: Yes.

6:44: No further public testimony. That section is closed.

Perez: More dialogue is needed on Item 1, the sidewalks, trees, paving item. ...

Perez proposes a policy amendment relating to Item 1. It says that the city will not spend any money on sidewalks, trees, or paving until aldermen have a spending approval policy in place. ... The subcommittee’s charge was only to report back in 30 days.

Morrison: Initially, that 30 days, that report was supposed to happen at the canceled April 25 meeting.

Castro asks for clarification.

Jackson-Brooks: This would hold all funding until we have a plan.

Perez: The amendment prevents the city from spending all the money until we have a plan.

Castro asks another question.

Perez: “I don’t understand your question, Migdalia.” This won’t affect any plan already approved.

6:51: Elicker: When are you planning to have deliberations?

Jackson-Brooks: May 17th.

Elicker: Why can’t we wait?

Perez: Good faith. Advanced notice.

Elicker: This has nothing to do with tree-planting? Just trimming? Can we put in language that says street trees are not affected?

Perez: Yes. ... If we pass this tonight, we can still shape it on the 17th when we meet again.

Elicker: So why do it tonight?

Perez: “It’s called democracy. It’s called keeping the peace.”

Elicker: What if we don’t figure it out? What if we don’t have a policy?

Morrison: Then we’ll take the proposal as it is to the floor.

Elicker: It just makes me nervous.

Jackson-Brooks: “This is sort of just like a protective device.” We could pick this apart all night, but let’s not.

Perez: We have between now and the 17th to improve this.

Elicker: Let’s then commit to voting on it on the 17th.

Jackson-Brooks: We need to act on it.

Morrison: We don’t want any games played with street, sidewalks, and tree-trimming.

6:57: Alderman Sergio Rodriguez is here in the audience, I just noticed.

Hausladen: Would you take a friendly amendment to add “trimming and stump-removal” after “trees”?

Perez: Sure.

Paolillo: This is a place-holder to get something more permanent.

All vote to pass the amendment. The actual item, Smart’s proposal about sidewalks etc., is passed over.

6:59: Morrison circulates an amendment. She says: The ward sidewalk fund is $1 million. We asked that $150,000 be found to make that number. ... The ward tree fund has to be found. ... An additional $230,000 ...  [Huh? I don’t understand what she’s talking about.] ...

Perez: When you have a dollar amount, it’s no longer a policy amendment. If you’re going to name a dollar amount, you need to find it. ... You’re on the record that you think we should find $230,000 for this. But this is not a policy amendment. You can’t just say “find.” You have to find it.

7:03: Jackson-Brooks: Next time is the new cops and the new communications manager.

The item is moved. Discussion.

One position or two for communications?

Hausladen: One is external. One is internal.

Perez: I’d like to delete the last paragraph, about the communications manager, because another amendment later on will be to eliminate all new positions. ... “The amendment is we’re giving the chief everything he wants except the new communications manager.” [That’s the motion now.] “Everything gets moved except that position.”

7:07: Castro: I completely support the approval of this to improve the police department and community policing.

Hausladen and Perez discuss 467 versus 494 positions.

Morrison: I think the new communications manager is important. There’s been a big disconnect between the community and the police department. ... Dealing with the police is hard. If you have a civilian as a liaison, it would be a good thing.

Elicker: I tend to agree with you, but I’m OK with what’s on the table. If we do decide to fund it, it will start July 1 anyway.

Paolillo: I’m in favor of the amendment.

7:11: Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn is here.

Paolillo: Communication is best when it’s local. We have district managers, who are spokespeople. ... I support the hiring of more cops. We probably don’t get to 467 in the next fiscal year. ... We also already have a city spokesperson. I’d much rather have my district manager doing outreach and forming block watches, rather than someone at 1 Union Ave.

Perez: About three years ago, Jessica Mayorga handled all communications. “She did a great job.” We have a deficit of $7.2 million. I have a feeling that it’s going to be lower than that. But we will end up with a deficit. “This is not the time for us to be creating new positions.” The worst thing this would do is delay the hiring of a communications manager two months. ... I agree with Al about district managers. ... The public was clear: We need to control pensions and benefits. One of the best ways to do that is to control hiring and new positions.

7:19: Castro: Constituents have said, we need to cut spending. ... “We have to draw the line.” ... We need to deal with taxes. “I’m not going to support this position or any new position.” ...

Hausladen: Can we get the job description and functions and goals? Without that, it’s not very clear what this person is doing. Everyone has a different idea.

Morrison: The bottom line is the board passed and agenda to lessen crime and address youth and jobs. The chief is doing something. We’re at two murder so far this year, rather than 13. I’ve had constituents say, “Give the chief whatever he wants.” Sometimes you need to invest. Yes, we need to cut. But we have priorities.

Jackson-Brooks: State and federal budgets are headed for deficit as well.

Perez: I support community-based policing, that’s why I’m going to vote for more money to go to the police department. ... We’re going to be spending a lot of money on the police department.

Hamilton: Let’s go ahead with the 467, to start accomplishing community policing. Then deal with the communications manager. Two months is not going to make a great big difference.

Clyburn: “You cannot use a credit card over and over and over.” ... The neighborhoods need to be fixed up.

7:32: Paolillo: I’ve always supporting community-based policing. ...

Morrison: I feel I have the best sergeant, Sgt. Harrison, in Dixwell. ... This position would support the police. ... We’re all not going to agree.

Perez: City spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton could go back to being the external spokesman for the department as well, like Jessica Mayorga was. Hartman could do the internal communications. ...

Hausladen: Let’s postpone further discussion on this.

The item was moved and seconded without the position. All are unanimously in favor.

7:39: A five-minute break is called. .. Aldermen grab slices of pizza from Abate’s.

7:47: Jackson-Brooks: “Anybody have any Tylenol? Or something stronger? Can we have some order please?” ... “I just want to announce: Jessica’s baby rolled over for the first time.”

Holmes: The 3-month-old, not the 2-year-old.

7:48: And we’re back.

Elicker: It’s time to talk about our amendment?

Perez: We’re not passing anything. We can talk about anything we want.

Elicker: First item is eliminating capital funding for new schools. Three reasons. Many residents testified that city can’t afford to take on more debt. No residents said we should keep the school. Many said we should remove them. Number two, I’m personally concerned about the debt the city is paying this year, over $60 million. It’s time to slow that down. This is one of the most practical things we can do. I’m not convinced it’s right to build these new schools. There might be other options, which is reason three. “You can’t tell me there are no other options.” My elementary school had modular classrooms when there was a spike in population. I remember playing glockenspiel in music class in one. They didn’t cost $42 million.

Holmes (pictured): I also share a concern about the debt load. But I also have some questions about what happens in the absence of this funding. I toured New Haven Academy, a successfull school with significant structural problems. It’s getting in the way of their kids getting ahead. What do you do to make sure those kids get something. The roof is leaking. The IT is very compromised. Is there something we could do without full rebuild?

Perez: We can get a feel for those concerns and have time to come back. Maybe we increase repairs and maintenance. Some schools only have 200 kids. Those discussions should be had. This will force those discussions. Necessity is the mother of invention. Maybe the short-term solution is using a million or two to address those issues you’re talking about.

Elicker: I like the format, too. Discussion tonight, vote later. ... I think that’s a great point. I talked with the COO of the school and asked about not doing a renovate like-new and just doing a roof repair and IT upgrade. He said they hadn’t done that analysis. ... My point is, we should be seeing those numbers and talking about them. ... Also, they’re planning to do the work in June of 2015.

Jackson-Brooks: We should figure out what needs to happen immediately. ... Any comment on the other two schools? ... Hyde, where it is now, is not a good place. They’ve outgrown the space. ... Maybe we just need them come in and further justify.

Hausladen: There’s a sight-lines report from the Board of Ed that show how much we need to be funding maintenance. We’re drastically underfunding what our own consultants are telling us we need to do to maintain our property. ... I don’t see any harm in pushing off for one year, except that state funding might disappear. ... We can’t afford another year of doing the same old thing. We can afford another year of waiting on doing three more schools.

Elicker: “I don’t think we should wait one more year or even suggest we should wait one more year. I think we should say we’re done with school construction.” And then figure out how to make it work.

8:05: Castro: Two things are very clear to me. People came out and said they can’t afford a tax increase. And people testified that schools are unfit. ...

Jackson-Brooks: Can we get to the point please?

Castro, eventually, says she supports the amendment.

Hamilton: We don’t need new schools. Adding three schools and increasing our budget? That’s not the direction we need to go right now. Taxes are astronomical and continue to rise. ... Pay the teachers more money to really teach our children. So they can be successful. Fine-tune the schools you have.

Morrison: I definitely don’t think we need new schools. But, new schools, I think of a knock-down and rebuild. When I think if New Haven Academy, I think of updating. That’s cheaper. I’m asking. ... Are students better with “a brand new Taj Mahal”? ... New Haven Academy is old. It’s really old. ... New? Or updated?

Jackson-Brooks: I will get the information for our next meeting.

Holmes: What would be effect on increasing pre-K spots?

Jackson-Brooks: We’ll find out.

Hausladen reads from a Board of Ed report on the underfunding of maintenance of schools. After $1.5 billion in school construction, “we have temples” but “our temples are going to crumble” if they’re not maintained. The old Lee high school was good enough to be the Yale School of Nursing, with some renovation and maintenance.

Elicker: To Jessica’s comment, I asked the superintendent, are you sure there are no spots available at any other school in the city? And he said no. There has to be spots. We need to ask, “Are you sure there’s no other way to do this?” So that the response is not that pre-K programs will be cut.

Hausladen: There is physical space out there.

Jackson-Brooks: You have to understand the needs of children, too.

8:22: Moving on. Elicker and Hausladen present their second amendment, on statistical revaluation.

Elicker: I’m proposing this because it’s looking more and more likely that our state delegation is not supportive of the mayor’s phase-in proposal. I’m looking for another way to offer relief to those folks. “I’m looking for ways we can act if the state delegation can’t.” ... We have a spike due to a small period of time where values were out of whack. ... We should do a statistical reval in two years, instead of five years, to re-equalize the value of houses. ... I don’t think people are going to move away. ... We want to encourage more people to move to New Haven. I think we can do that with this proposal. It would cost us about $550,000 in two years to do this.

Holmes: This would go into effect in the future?

Elicker: It would go into effect immediately and require the reval in two years. It would be a message to people: Don’t leave.

Holmes: But no implication on this year’s budget.

Elicker: No. ... It would likely be in the next year’s capital budget.

Holmes: ... I think this is a good thing to be entertaining. We don’t have any guarantees about what will happen. ...

Perez: My understanding is that the senate is going to act on the phase-in plan. We’ll know by the 17th whether the house will pass it. ... I don’t know if we can commit to an expenditure two years in the future.

Elicker: Alderwoman Holmes is right that you never know what will happen. ... “I think it’s highly, highly likely that a statistical revaluation would bring values down. ... I think it’s highly likely that this will equalize things.” ... As for spending future money, we passed a living wage ordinance, committing us to spend money. I suspect we can do something like this.

Castro asks about implementing a full phase-in.

Perez: A full phase-in would benefit commercial properties more than residential.

8:39: Jackson-Brooks: I don’t have any faith in the tax valuations that get done. “Who can you trust these days?”

Elicker: Doug.

Laughter.

Hausladen: Put that in the record please.

Aldermen discuss real-estate valuation.

[I’m sorry to say I have to end the live-blog here. Gotta go.]

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Comments

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 4, 2012  12:26am

I support the blocking of borrowing to build new schools.

In part because we need much better allocation of funds in the schools we already have—but

Mostly because I suspect NHPS and Achievement First have already divided up the newly built and renovated schools to create a new public-private school district hybrid to continue administrative skimming and subjugation of teachers to the detriment of our urban poor.

So bravo aldermen, I hope you can block the building.

posted by: anonymous on May 4, 2012  8:23am

How much could we save if we stopped building one enormous private parking garage after another in our “asthma death zone”, using our millions in subsidies granted from DeLauro and Murphy?  Has anyone done the math on that?

Also, the health and welfare of a city and its families is an order of magnitude more relevant to “school success” than either new buildings or better teachers. It’s sad that our city only has the capacity to focus on the latter two issues, but when all you have is a hammer….

Nothing the city can do for its schools or teaching staff will be able to even scratch the surface to offset the damage being done by our 10 shiny new parking garages and widened roads for suburban white people.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 4, 2012  10:21am

Saying no is difficult. But it’s prudent.

The city is currently funning a $5 to $7 million deficit in this fiscal year. 13% of its budget is debt service chewing through $63 - $65 million. Debt service today is more than double what it was just 8 years ago and its robbing us of our ability to launch new ideas without raising taxes.

Nobody has said no to the BOE on new schools but at a time when we have more schools than anybody in the entire state - and the NH BOE can’t maintain those new schools - do we have any business building more of them? No.

The schools we have need to be filled. They aren’t. There may need to be consolidation to make room for the school program focus you want. But it is indeed time to choose what are the priority schools and quit just building schools because we can get grant money from the state. We may have more schools but we don’t have more graduates and those graduates don’t earn degrees in college - they drop out of college.

Stop the building. Focus on the education and the outcomes.

Congratuations to Doug and Justin. I hope the committee supports this important decision as well as the one that adds deletes all the new employees. We cannot afford to hire any of them and frankly, there ought to be a hiring freeze with the exception of the police and grudgingly, the fire. Those two departments, which consume the second and third largest portions of the budget have NEVER been asked to justify the number of employees they have. Nobody knows how many we need and its critical to find out.

posted by: davecoon on May 4, 2012  10:22am

I support the construction of schools in theory.  What I don’t support is the construction of unnecessary ‘architecture’.  for example, the Metropolitan Business Academy is over the top design wise.  Those that foot the bill for that building paid a premium for someone’s architectural ego.  The MBA will be difficult and costly to maintain into the future.

posted by: anonymous on May 4, 2012  10:48am

“Debt service today is more than double what it was just 8 years ago”

Ratio of town debt to grand list according to CERC (x100)

1996
Hamden: 1
Stamford: 2
Milford: 2
West Haven: 4
New Haven: 5
Bridgeport: 7

2010
Stamford: 2
Hamden: 2
Milford: 4
West Haven: 5
New Haven: 10
Bridgeport: 10

posted by: anonymous on May 4, 2012  10:53am

I find it difficult to believe that the Aldermen can borrow $42,000,000 for three new schools, but can’t stand to borrow $30,000 as a match to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal funding to fix our rapidly-declining transit system. 

Economic success of families will improve our school system much more quickly than a new building, and Perez, Marchand, Paolillo, et al., just dealt a massive blow to that from which our city may never recover.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on May 4, 2012  11:15am

Note to self:

Scratch PROJECT “Taj Mahal”

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on May 4, 2012  11:33am

The people of New Haven need to become aware of what the mayor and the Board of Education have been doing regarding school construction and school creation. Over the past several years many of our schools have needed remodeling or new construction. However, there has been much waste. A few schools, like King, East Rock, Clement, Robinson, Grant, were built not too long ago and have either been torn down and rebuilt or are not used as formal school buildings. There has definitely been a lot of extra and superfluous architectural details added to many of these new buildings which added millions of dollars of extra costs.
New Haven right now has too many schools for its population. We have too many high schools with too many specialized programs: the arts, sports medicine, business, engineering, service and activism, health and science, humanities,marine science. Instead of incorporating a program focus in one of the schools already existing, this administration has had the idea of creating a new school with its own building for the educational program.
Often these schools have less than 250-200 students. WE HAVE BUILT MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR SCHOOL BUILDINGS TO ACCOMODATE A FEW HUNDRED STUDENTS!
Before we allow them to build another school in New Haven, the Aldermen should do a major evaluation of the number of school buildings we have and the number that have been abandoned. We need to count the costs and evaluate the need. Common sense does not seem to prevail here. The alderman is right. There needs to be a moratorium on all school construction in New Haven. We cannot afford to continue to waste taxpaper dollars in this race to have more schools than any other city of its size in the nation.

posted by: PH on May 4, 2012  11:39am

Please reduce the number of wards and the number of aldermen in half.  If the alders don’t have the stomach to fire themselves, at least reduce the number of wards by half and make some at-large positions available.  Splintering a city of 130,000 into 30 sections is utterly unnecessary and unproductive.  Consider that NYC has 51 members on their city council and a population 100 times greater.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on May 4, 2012  12:07pm

What are the other amendments?? Do we get any others?? Please tell me this is not it??

posted by: PhillyRock on May 4, 2012  12:07pm

Bravo Alderman!

Like I said before - a new building does not make a good school.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on May 4, 2012  12:19pm

I agree with PH 100 per cent! New Haven has too many wards, too many aldermen , and too many schools for a city its size. If we reduced the numbers of all three the city would save millions of dollars of TAX PAYER DOLLARS. In the process of revising the size of each ward its is very clear and really only makes common sense that New Haven should have fewer wards.

posted by: Good Natured on May 4, 2012  12:39pm

No more school debt, PLEASE!

One thing we should be teaching our kids is math, and another is financial responsibility.

Plus—if we don’t reign in the debt NOW, our kids will still be paying off the city debt when they’re graduates.

If Destefano wanted to fix the city’s schools, he could have spent a lot more on teaching, and a lot less on new buildings.  But you can’t put a “Destafano was Mayor” plaque on a good teacher or a happy, engaged student, like he’s put a huge sign on every school construction site.  We don’t need to put up more fancy buildings—enough with Destefano’s pricey and public erections.

posted by: Curious on May 4, 2012  1:11pm

PH, right on!

I asked this once and didn’t get an answer; I will ask again.

Did New Haven always have 30 aldermen? 

If not, how did the number get so high?

posted by: cedarhillresident! on May 4, 2012  1:47pm

were the heck is my other comment????

there was no slander?

I 100% support this amendment! BRAVO to all the alders that are supporting this and stopping the madness.

AND YES be ready for the city folks to come at you hard and twist the truth because the money tree is drying up and they want to squeeze us for every last drop. And they know how to spin a web.

posted by: HhE on May 4, 2012  2:44pm

cedarhillresident!, the NHI seams to be losing a lot of comments, including any that contain irony, controversy, or were written on a Tuesday.

posted by: mechanic on May 4, 2012  2:53pm

As a teacher who lives in town, I’m a little concerned that the East Rock neighborhood and their representatives are so vociferous about ending school building just after the Hooker and East Rock schools have been rebuilt or rehabbed.

I’m not implying anything against those alderpeople or the people of East Rock.  I know that it is coincidental that we have new blood in the council and a deficit and East Rock’s schools happen to be completed simultaneously.  However, this would be an easier pill to swallow if the East Rock alderpeople teamed up with folks from the Beaver Hill neighborhood, which would especially benefit from the next round of proposed school building.

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 4, 2012  4:36pm

to “HhE”

I recently had a comment censored because, when I inquired via email, that I used the word ‘tyranny’ and was informed that it was a “loaded” word but that my post was otherwise fine and to re-post.

Maybe this will shed some light on how NHI is handling comments since the comment hiatus.

I will say that I post far less and those in authority are probably glad to see me go.

posted by: HhE on May 4, 2012  10:16pm

CrossTeacher, as hideous as East Rock Bunker, er Magnet was, I would not have torn it down in order to rebuild it.  Little Hooker is a beautiful school, and being pre war, is of solid construction, so that was a project I would sanction.

That said, the breaks need to be applied some time, and the crisis is such, that the sooner, the better.

posted by: sillyputty on May 4, 2012  10:31pm

@CrossTeacher
Here’s the spoonful of sugar to make that pill easier to swallow:
http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/taxpayers_weigh_in/

In other words, numerous Beaver Hills neighbors and their Alderwoman, Claudette Robinson-Thorpe, opposed the construction of Hyde in neighborhood.  So rest assured, the proposed amendment has support outside of East Rock.  Alderwoman Robinson-Thorpe is not a member of the finance committee and wasn’t at the meeting detailed in this article; but you can read the article above to learn the full picture.

Also, let’s be honest:  it’s plainly unfair to imply that East Rock alders are self-dealing. 

First, neither of them was on the Board when funding was approved for the Hooker Schools or East Rock Global Magnet. 

AND, one of the schools that they are considering de-funding is New Haven Academy—which is in East Rock!!! 

I’m surprised that, as a “teacher who lives in town,” you don’t know that (or didn’t mention it in your comment).

posted by: mechanic on May 5, 2012  11:53am

@sillyputty :  I actually take the comment policy quite seriously here, and did not intend to cast aspersions on the integrity of to East Rock alderpeople.  In fact,  I said that explicitly and with sincerity in my post. I agree that it’s unfair to accuse east rock of double dealing,  which is why I chose my words carefully and without sarcasm.

My point was that I think that we need to be sensitive to issues that could come up among haves and have nots.  I agree that school building has gotten out of hand and that renovations could be a successful compromise.  I’m saying proceed with caution.

Also,  I am well aware that NHA is in East Rock.  However, their neighborhood schools have all been rehabbed through the school building process.

posted by: HhE on May 5, 2012  12:01pm

Thanks for the insight, Brutus 2011.

Maybe the NHI will not miss you, but I will.  You are definitely on HhE’s NHI Posters All Stars Team.  Your posts on race and education are the best on these topics by far.Please keep fighting the good fight.

posted by: anonymous on May 5, 2012  1:46pm

Sillyputty is correct.

Also, I am not necessarily against new school facilities, particularly those for Pre-K students.  But the hard truth is that we need to maintain the facilities we already have before we decide to build new ones. 

Deferring maintenance to the point where buildings fall apart actually results in far more costs, which means less money for our youth.

This is true of roads and bridges as well as schools.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on May 5, 2012  6:16pm

@anonymous
We need to becareful because I think they are bucking for a few million to do said repairs (TO THESE NEW BUILDINGS!) The question were has accountability been in the contractors! Look at some of the thing that have been fix…all brand new is there no warranty’s on these things? Remember as for more to get what you want…they want to jack up the repair fund.

cross teacher…I remember when the folks of East rock said Don’t build the new East Rock school! I remember them saying they were willing to wait and or forego it at one point in time…the city still went forward (because it is not about the new schools it is about the cash). And it surely appears in your post that you knew exactly what you posted…looked like baiting to me. But hey I have posted thing that came off different than what I was thinking.  hope you don’t pull that in the school.

posted by: lizv on May 8, 2012  11:18am

The building of schools in New Haven has got to stop.  We cannot sustain it, and it is unnecessary. This city has to become affordable to the middle class, and the only way to do that is to stop spending and reduce our debt. We have existing buildings that can be used to house new school programs such as Hyde. Let’s use them!

posted by: Arthur on May 10, 2012  9:15am

This amendment is ill conceived.  If we do not accept funds to renovate New Haven Academy (a high achieving and socially conscious school), we will, per a recently released cost analysis on repairs, assume 100% of the cost of making that school safe to use.  The roof needs to be repaired; there is a serious sewage problem and there are **other** very costly fundamental needs that can’t be ignored.  With state funding, we will pay 20 cents on the dollar for a total renovation of this school.  It is only sensible to do so.  With state funding, renovating NHA will cost the city less money and will make this modest school virtually worry free for many years to come.  While the amendment being proposed by Mr. Elicker and Mr. Hausladen may be be politically popular to the tax weary citizens of New Haven (of which I am one), it is ill conceived.  If you must offer an amendment to the budget, use a scalpel and not a sledge hammer, and provide the taxpayer greater relief (to say nothing of generations of students).  The students of New Haven Academy deserve your full attention to this amendment and certainly greater consideration.

posted by: nhalibrary on May 10, 2012  9:28am

New Haven Academy, located in the old St. Mary’s school on Orange St. absolutely needs to be renovated!  NHA enjoys our convenient location in the community however there are many problems with the physical building.  One in particular that bothers both staff and students is the extreme swings in temperatures due to no air conditioning and an old heating system. Unbearable heat in warm months turns to jackets-must-be-worn cold in winter months. Opening windows does not bring relief, only noise, along with grime and grit from the street that repeatedly covers books, materials and probably our lungs. Our funding needs to be approved NOW, in order to begin initial planning.  Approval will not add any money to the budget for several years.  New Haven started a tax-worthy school renovation project and should finish the job by providing comfortable, safe learning environments for ALL students.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on May 10, 2012  10:01am

Arthur and nhalibrary

see you guys received the email…question do you live in new haven?

posted by: Arthur on May 10, 2012  1:06pm

@ cedarhill
Yes.  I believe I self-identified myself as a tax weary citizen of New Haven.  That was one of several points made.  Perhaps you missed other more important points in a rush to make yours?

posted by: cedarhillresident! on May 10, 2012  3:22pm

why arthur you are correct jumped the gun :)

big hugs sorry :)

I think we need a sledge hammer…maybe a few year ago maybe we could of did it more nicer..but we really do not need any more schools. We have more than we can use! It is shear insanity that we would even be thinking of building any more at all….lets work with what we have. MANY BRAND NEW ONES!

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