Harp Looks To Create New Grants Office

Paul Bass Photo

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp is planning a new four-person grant-writing office that she expects to pay for itself.

The mayor’s office has submitted a request to the budget director to include four new positions for the office—to be called the Office of Development & Policy—in the next fiscal year’s budget. The office would include a $116,000-a-year director, a $60,000 senior development officer, a $40,000 administrative assistant, and a $40,000 development office analyst.

Harp said Monday that she plans to submit a request to the Board of Alders to create the positions sooner so she can open the office in late February or March.

“We don’t have anybody who does grants,” Harp said. “We’ve lost hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars because we don’t have anybody doing that.” She cited “homeland security” as one area where the city could have obtained grant money if it had a staff dedicated to that task.

“I used to work for the city [in the 1980s]. We used to have a central grants operation. It should pay for itself,” Harp said.

She plans to name Mendi Blue, who currently serves as acting labor relations chief, to head the office if approved. Blue (pictured above at a Jan. 2 Emergency Operations Center meeting on Winter Storm Hercules) is a New Haven native who earned a law degree as well as a Harvard MBA.

Harp said the office will seek possible grant money “across the board,” from public safety to job-creation to public education. “The education department, as huge as it is, doesn’t have a grant writer,” she said.

The goal is to find ways to pay for important government functions without raising taxes, Harp said. She said she’d like to see Yale possibly contribute interns or graduate students to help research and write grants.

Board of Alders President Jorge Perez said he wants to wait until he sees details of the plan before commenting on it.

25 New Jobs?

The four grant-office jobs are among 25 new jobs that city government department heads hope to see in the next fiscal year’s budget. So far.

Usually department heads have submitted their requests for new slots to the budget department by this time of year, since the administration submits a proposed budget in March. But with a change in mayor—Harp just took office on Jan. 1—some last-minute requests might trickle in from new department heads, said Budget Director Joe Clerkin.

He released a list of the 25 positions at the Independent’s request. Besides the four jobs slated for the proposed Office of Development & Policy, the mayor’s office requested a new $80,000-a-year legislative director to oversee the alder and state legislative liaisons; and a $40,000-a-year receptionist.

In addition, new City/Town Clerk Michael Smart has requested two new assistant clerk positions, one at $60,0276 and one at $44,623. Smart said one would be a bilingual position, a person to “help run the office, do paperwork, work on elections, and train staff.” The office currently has no Spanish-speaking employees, he said. The person filling the second position would focus on computer/tech skills, helping to modernize the office, he said. “These are vital positions.”

The other requests came from department heads before the Harp administration took office on Jan. 1. They include:

• Four youth librarians at $44,623-a-year each; a $49,186-a-year Spanish librarian; and two technical assistants at $43,552-a-year apiece. Clerkin noted that the library’s staff has dropped from 50 to 38 positions since 2009.

• A $65,995 attorney assigned to dealing with assessments. Clerkin noted that the corporation counsel’s office has dropped from 22 to 17 positions in recent years.

• Four new public-health nurses at $48,286 apiece; a $53,954-a-year financial manager; and a $55,403 senior sanitarian. All but the last position are listed as “revenue-generating,” meaning they’re expected to bring in money to cover their costs, including, according to Clerkin, reimbursements the city could be capturing under the Medicaid program.

• A $44,623-a-year “utilization monitor” for the Commission on Equal of Opportunities.

• A $55,538-a-year assistant electrical assistant for the Office of Building and Inspection.

• A $48,286-a-year accounts payable auditor for the Finance Department. Clerkin said the position already exists, paid for through special funds; the request would place the position under the city’s general operating budget.

None of these requests has yet been approved. In fact, the Harp administration hasn’t even signed off on them. Department heads file the requests as the starting point for discussing the budget; the Harp administration presents its proposed budget to the Board of Alders, which then holds hearings and makes its own changes.

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posted by: anonymous on January 21, 2014  9:20am

Writing grants is much more complicated and competitive than it was in the 1980s. A development office is a good idea in theory, but wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run to hire nationally-known grantwriters on a per-grant contract basis?  One director and an aide, even if they are very talented, isn’t going to be able to write that many large grants, and there’s little accountability built in if all of their proposals fail to get funded.  And Yale students definitely won’t be much help writing large grants for free.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on January 21, 2014  10:32am

The grant writing position is a great idea.  Though, I would’ve pegged the starting salary a bit lower ($80,000) with incentives built in.  That would answer concerns about accountability and ensuring that grants are obtained.  With that said, Harvard MBA and Harvard law is quite a package and I’m certain Ms. Blue could command a significantly higher salary elsewhere than her proposed salary.

I don’t think that the Town Clerk needs two more people.  There should definitely be a Spanish speaker, but this could be obtained by getting rid of one or two current employees.  But if the clerks won’t be trusted to speak to the press, why do we need to add another $90,000 to that department?

And I’m not in favor of any of the old mayor’s positions.  A new mayor’s budget shouldn’t be saddled by an outgoing executive’s desires.

posted by: robn on January 21, 2014  11:20am

How will generalists write grants for specialized matters? Department heads are currently paid do this job. And if a department head isn’t capable of writing his/her own grants, they shouldn’t be a department head.

posted by: Westville voter on January 21, 2014  12:35pm

This wish list of new positions will cost the city at least $1.5 to $2 million annually. Adding staff to an already bloated city payroll is irresponsible, even if New Haven were not in dire financial condition. The mayor must justify every position she is asking us to pay for, and the BoA must scrutinize this thoroughly. I’m not holding my breath waiting for either of those things to happen. A massive tax increase is coming!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 21, 2014  2:57pm

posted by: Westville voter on January 21, 2014 11:35am

A massive tax increase is coming!


posted by: FacChec on January 21, 2014  5:01pm

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp is planning a new four-person grant-writing office that she expects to pay for itself. There has never been a city “pay for itself”.

It comes as no surprise she recommends the creation of a new dept in the middle of the 2014 fiscal year; thereby increasing the short and long term cost for personnel (salary, benefits, unemployment, and longevity).

It seems fiscally prudent that the Mayor would first attempt to justify the need and benefit, beyond Homeland security, to the city as a whole.

Rob Smuts confirmed this department is up to snuff under his watch.
For the last twenty years each individual department has been responsible for seeking grant funds within its area of concentration.

The BOE in particular under its support services budget, has a grant manager earning $70,839. The BOE has the best grant receivership record of all city departments.

It is insulting to offer to pay grants Director $116K, and another 120K plus benefits to three other staffers.

According to the finance department’s monthly reports; seen here:

From April 2013 to May 2014 the city has only applied for and received three grants.

Two for the police (1. $261,300 Police Services 9/26/2013 The DUI Enforcement Program)
2. ($30,465 Police 5/23/2013 Project Longevity and one for the Health department
3. ($81,797 Health 4/26/2013 To perform tuberculosis studies).

Three grants in just over a year is hardly justification to create $236K in new salaries with benefits, midyear.

The creation two new positions in the clerk’s office where there is little demand, the clerk’s office is currently under performing in revenue year to-date; 176K collected against $400K projected, is hardly a justification to increase personnel and a insult to the five current staffers who have been holding it down for the twenty previous years.

posted by: JMS on January 21, 2014  7:10pm

Countdown to Harp crony being named to this position… 10… 9… 8… 7… 6…

posted by: JMS on January 21, 2014  7:13pm

FYI the salary for the director of grants is higher than the salary of the CAO ($111,733) who has a lot more responsibility overseeing fire, police, public works, library etc.

posted by: FacChec on January 22, 2014  11:24am

“We don’t have anybody who does grants,” Harp said. “We’ve lost hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars because we don’t have anybody doing that.” She cited “homeland security” as one area where the city could have obtained grant money if it had a staff dedicated to that task.

According to Rob Smut’s transition report to the new Mayor:

• Grants:
Emergency Management is responsible for applications, administrative reporting (programmatic & financial) and project management of public safety grants that include Port Security, Fire, Hazard Mitigation, EM and at times a collaborative partnership with Police grants. Since 2009 EM has successfully
brought in about $6 million in grant funding. Port Security, AFG and EMPG are grants that are applied for annually.

Contrary to Harps assertion, the transition report provides Proof positive that city wide grants programs is in existence and active.

posted by: robn on January 22, 2014  12:59pm



posted by: FacChec on January 22, 2014  1:42pm

Robn, Boom, BOOM.

From the transition report to the New Mayor:

The following is a comprehensive list of major initiatives the New Haven Free Public Library will be focusing on during the first quarter of 2014:
Implement the Strategic Plan for 2014-2016. The year-long project shows the NHFPL defining seven strategic goals that include:  1. City Collaboration 2. Communicate Impact 3. Customer Experiences 4. Digital Bridges
5. Engaging Environments 6, Optimizing Potential 7. Raising Revenue
We will create programs, services, and define initiatives within these seven strategic goal areas. A comprehensive set of institutional metrics was also created to allow the organization to make better decisions using concrete data.

Break ground on the Lower Level construction Project at Ives Main Library. The NHFPL received a state construction grant of $318, 524. The new space will include a brand new, glass encased Teen Center, a 150 seat theatre for panel discussions, performance, and readings, a designated art gallery, and a newly outfitted conference room space for customers and community meetings. The RFP was published in September 2013 for a 4th-quarter 2013 groundbreaking.
Prepare for the second year of a major grant from the NewAlliance Foundation. The NHFPL received a three-year grant totaling $105,000 to work with the Fair Haven Middle School summer classes to prevent summer reading backslide. The Library is following a cohort, which began last summer, across three years in a data-driven way to measure the effectiveness of planned activities in combatting summer reading slide.

Someone just doesn’t get it!
Complete the final cycle of a two-year, $80,000 grant from the International Association of New Haven. This grant helped the Library focus on three key service areas pertaining to cultural and ethnic issues: year-long programm

posted by: UBHolden on January 22, 2014  11:34pm

this has nothing to do with Ms. Blue, who seems to be a well-qualified individual, but the salary for this position just seems wrong.  To pay that position higher than the CAO does not make sense.  I would tend to agree with Atticus Shrugged that $80,000 seems to be the more appropriate range.