Hey, Buddy, Can You Spare $30 Million?

Thomas Breen PhotoEliminating 106 police positions could save New Haven over $4 million a year.

It could also, in the view of some people, cost us more in lost lives and a more dangerous city.

We could save hundreds of thousands of dollars eliminating or combining a bunch of higher-level management positions — if we believe we won’t lose out in the long run.

Please join us in exploring those choices. By putting our heads together to right the ship.

A respected analyst of our local government finances — Mohit Agrawal, chair of the independent Fiscal Review & Audit Commission— reports that our city has a $30 million structural deficit. The city has crushing long-term debt, woefully underfunded pensions, and a limit on how much it can tax its property, more than half of which is tax-exempt. That means we need to find ongoing ways (not one-shot fixes, like selling off property) either to raise that money, cut those costs from city government, or some combination of both.

The Harp administration tried to close some of that gap by raising taxes 11 percent as of this week on already tax-strapped property owners. That produced an outcry to reverse the hike. But according to FRAC’s analysis, the city would have actually needed a 20 percent increase to produce a balanced budget this coming year. (Read more about that here and here.) So the new budget still put off some of the fundamental choices New Haven now has to make.

“Our city,” a recent FRAC reported noted, “finds itself in a financial crucible.”

From Mayor Toni Harp to citizens who blast her administration, no one has questioned Agrawal’s or FRAC’s assessment of the city’s dire long-term financial situation.

“We’re busy looking at ways that we can be more efficient,” Harp said during her latest appearance on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program. For instance, she said, perhaps “aspects of parks and public works can come together.” She credited her predecessor for having successfully trimmed down the government during a previous financial crunch: “We’ve got to thank John DeStefano. He already reduced the size of the city by 40 percent. It’s already much smaller.”

Which means a new round of significant savings may require not just tweaking the bureaucracy or fixing inefficiencies, but cutting bone — well-run functions of government that New Haven may decide it can no longer afford.

The city will probably also have to look at its $1.5 billion in bonded debt, the highest per-capita municipal load in the state. It also will have to examine how to shore up its perilously underfunded pensions. A proposal simply to borrow more money to address the problem (through $250 million in new pension obligation bonds) failed to win approval during this year’s budget approval process.

Thomas Breen PhotoFRAC, too, is embarking on months of close scrutiny of the city’s options to see how to close that $30 million gap, or else punt and surrender control of local finances to the state (the way Hartford and West Haven have done) in return for a bailout. The search for substantive solutions has begun.

So far, though, the public debate has focused on name-calling, demonizing public figures, or calling generally for “cutting the fat” in various bureaucracies, rather than naming enough specific jobs or functions that can be cut with enough savings to make a difference. (Here’s a story about one exception.) People have expressed outrage over an 11 percent tax increase that took effect last week. A group of citizens gathered last week to supposedly brainstorm solutions; instead, they spent an hour venting about their big tax bills and corrupt politicians without producing any sizable cuts or identifying services they’d be willing to give up.

In the interest of helping FRAC and City Hall begin that process of closing the $30 million structural deficit, the Independent is hereby inviting readers to submit specific suggestions for long-term government cuts or new revenues that add up to at least $1 million, minus the attacks on individuals or vague condemnation of bureaucracies. Please submit your ideas .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). We’ll look into some of them, examining the dollars that can be saved or raised, as well as what New Haven might lose in the process. Then we’ll publish what we’ve learned and ask you to weigh in through our “True Vote” polls.

Please post comments, too, as usual. But we’re going to ask people to refrain from criticizing or insulting individuals or simply venting for these stories, and focus on practical solutions.

Who knows? Maybe we can get to that $30 million and avoid more tax hikes, or selling our civic soul to Hartford.

To start the process, here’s a look at three ideas that have been circulating around town these days.

Cut 106 Cop Positions: $4.5M

Markeshia Ricks File Photo

New Haven budgets to have 495 cops, more than any other Connecticut city. (Bridgeport budgets just over 400, according to mayoral spokeswoman Rowena White.)

Right now, thanks to a wave of retirements and resignations, only 389 positions are filled.

Many of those positions remain in the budget as placeholders, costing taxpayers just $1 for the year. But the city did budget to bring 72 new officers on the job this coming year in two police academy classes. That would be a long-term cost.

Those officers start out earning $44,400 a year for now (pending arbitration on a new contract). Add 40 percent for the cost of benefits (the estimate used by city officials), and that’s $62,160 per position, for now. A beat officer’s salary rises to $71,000 in the fourth year. That’s lower than it is in the police departments of neighboring towns (which therefore are having success poaching our best cops). But it does add up.

If New Haven decides to cancel the classes and keep the force at its current strength long term — including not filling the $1 placeholder positions down the road (therefore cutting 106 positions overall) — that would save $4.48 million a year to begin with, and more as time goes on.

Arguments For: A decade ago New Haven still had fewer than those 389 positions. And it was doing pretty well for a while, until gangs started deadly banging again for a few years. (Then leaders were put away for long sentences, and crime dropped again.)

One experienced cop, former Assistant Chief John Velleca, argued in several interviews on WNHH FM that the cops can do fine at that strength. Part of the reason for our larger force is our community policing program hatched in the early 1990s, which relies heavily on expensive walking beats. Velleca argued that approach doesn’t really cut crime, because community-minded proactive cops will get out of their cars, even if they’re assigned to a cruiser, and meet people and build trust. Ineffective cops will find ways to pass time in corners away from the public if they’re assigned to a walking beat. The bigger challenge for the department is to train and deploy officers well, rather than assign lots more officers to walking patrols, Velleca argued.

“Don’t kid yourself. The walking beat officers aren’t swinging their nightsticks, whistling. They’re doing the same thing the cops in the cars are doing. They’re going to [calls]. In the downtime, they’re not shaking hands and kissing babies. They’re just walking up and down the street,” Velleca said in one of the interviews.

“The walking beat thing has been fed to this city for so long, it’s disgusting. Everybody believes walking beats is community policing. It’s not. Community policing resides in the officer, in the philosophy he takes to whatever assignment he’s in.”

Arguments Against: Crime is cyclical. So whether or not Velleca is right, the city will see rashes of upsetting violence, upticks in violence rates even if they’re only temporary. And the public will demand more cops — in even louder voices than heard in the recent tax-increase debates.

In the same Whalley Avenue meeting last week where 50 people called for a tax revolt, neighbors have been expressing alarm at the absence of more officers on duty, especially at night. One neighbor, for instance, called the Independent to report the horror she felt when it took 30 minutes for cops to respond to a call about an intruder in her house; she learned that only one officer was on duty for that stretch of town. Cops cost money.

New Haven has a consensus that walking beat-centered community policing is a big reason that violent crime has dropped consistently for the seven years since it’s been revived, to the lowest levels in decades and to levels lower than in other Connecticut cities.

“I think the intangibles around community-based policing and a walking beat outweigh jumping into a car,” Harp, who as an alder co-authored the original community policing plan, said in one of several discussions about the issue on WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday” program.

“Part of the reason crime is down is we had 439 officers at our peak over the past couple of years. Walking beats. Project Longevity interaction. With a reduced police force, some of it is going to suffer,” Chief Anthony Campbell agreed in an interview this week. “This city is accustomed to a certain style of policing. They’re accustomed to high visibility.”

And the department may end up paying extra for cops on the beat if, say, a murder spree or other high-visibility crime problem requires more officers on the street.

Slash Supervisory City Hall, Cop Positions: $2.3M

(Updated: Previous Estimates based on incorrect data.) Another idea floating around is to eliminate currently vacant supervisory and detective positions in the police department, along with two of the four assistant police slots. (The police department created four assistant jobs at the recommendation of an outside consultant in the wake of a 2007 corruption scandal.) The assistant chiefs get paid $125,426 a year (or $175,600 with the 40 percent for benefits factored in.)

For instance, two lieutenant positions are open; the department pays lieutenants an average of $85,000 a year, according to Chief Campbell. So adding the 40 percent, those two slots could save $238,000 a year. (Consumer advisory: Readers are advised to double check all math in this article. Although this reporter has checked it several times, the reporter also doesn’t have a great math track record.)

Three sergeant slots are currently unfilled, according to Campbell. At $78,000 a year on average, plus the 40 percent for benefits, they could save the city $326,600 a year if they remain unfilled.

Nine budgeted detective slots are currently unfilled, according to Campbell. At what he said is a $75,000 average salary, plus the 40 percent, they could save the city around $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, at City Hall, there are potential opportunities to combine some top jobs. For instance, the heads of the Livable City Initiative (LCI) ($115,000 a year, or $161,400 with the 40 percent for benefits added) and the City Plan Department ($111,000 in salary, around $154,400 including benefits) currently report to the economic development administrator. Under one scenario, the LCI and City Plan would be folded into the development administrator post, perhaps gradually as people vacate some of the slots.

If you also eliminate the position of deputy community services director (approved salary this year: $96,684; $135,357 with benefits), the total savings from eliminating all these positions appear to hit $4.23 million.

Arguments for: We never needed four assistant chiefs. The same assistant can oversee, say, administration, training and ethics, internal affairs. A second could oversee patrol and investigative services, both of which have their own full-time supervisor. While individual misconduct will always occur in any large department like police, the integrity of the unit at the center of the corruption trial was restored. And one can argue that training, independent internal investigations, and appropriate punishment for misdeeds go further in keeping a police force clean than do extra bodies at the top.

If the top priority is keeping cops on the street — either on walking beats or in cars, in great enough numbers to avoid a decline in response time — and if New Haven can’t just continue raising taxes, then some positions need to go, even if they’re important. So that would mean supervisors.

As for the City Hall cuts, the city plan chief, Michael Piscitelli, is currently doing double duty as acting development administrator. LCI’s chief indeed has a full plate of responsibility, and then some. The argument here is that, as with police, if ranks need to be pruned, a top priority might be to preserve boots on the ground, in inspectors and code enforcers, who do already have supervisors on staff in the department.

Arguments against: The recommendation for four chiefs was designed to provide needed extra oversight of ethics and training in a corruption-wracked department. Especially in this era of greater scrutiny of police behavior, some would argue the department can’t risk a return to the old days.

Similarly, Chief Campbell has responded to recent controversial incidents involving police interactions with citizens by stressing the need for better supervision and training. The police force is young and destined to grow younger, less experienced. He argued that supervisors can play a key role in monitoring and defusing potential problems.

Fewer detectives would mean less investigation. More crimes might go unsolved; more perpetrators would remain on the streets.

And as it is, City Hall’s LCI and City Plan departments operate with smaller staffs than in the past. The directors are already overworked. Meanwhile, interest in building in New Haven is at a peak; the government needs enough staff to vet proposals, negotiate the kind of deals the public is clamoring for (to create jobs and preserve affordable housing). And slumlords are getting away with illegally housing people in sometimes horrid conditions. LCI is already stretched thin trying to stay on top of them.

City Sales Tax: $10.5M

 

In addition to eyeing cuts, New Haven is also exploring ways to raise new revenue. In addition to Hail Mary passes — changing state law to tax Yale more, for instance; or convincing the suburban-led legislature to meet more its abandoned obligation to fully fund the Payments n Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) reimbursements for the untaxable 54 percent of our property — more modest proposals have emerged.

One is to obtain state permission to charge a local sales tax. State Sen. Martin Looney submitted a bill to do that in 2017; it didn’t pass. It would have allowed cities to add 0.5 percent to the 6.35 percent state sales tax. The state would collect the full amount of money, then reimburse the cities their portion. (Read about that here.) At the time the bill was introduced, a state estimate had it bringing $10.5 million direct to New Haven. The bill didn’t pass.

A state comptroller candidate, Republican Kurt Miller, offered a variation of that idea, in this interview: State enabling legislation for cities to charge a 1 percent surcharge specifically on hotel rooms, entertainment tickets, and restaurant meals in New Haven.

Argument for: We need the money. Much of our retail, at least downtown, tends to be high-end. The industries covered by Miller’s proposal, in particular, are growing in New Haven, especially with several at least four “boutique hotels” either in planning or under construction.

“If you look at that 1 percent, that’s $1 on a $100 dinner. That’s not going to change a family from going out to dinner. It’s not going to change a businessperson from coming into New Haven to rent a hotel,” Miller said.

Argument against: Taxes are already high. Sales taxes disproportionately hurt the poor.

Restaurants in particular often struggle to stay in business, in part by keeping prices from getting too high. Some business people would complain that this could threaten their establishments’ survival, and thus endanger jobs and tax revenue.

Even if New Haven did all of the above, it would be only halfway to the $30 million. And it will not do all the above. So the floor’s open! Please, let us know where else to look.

Click on this Facebook Live video to watch Mohit Agrawal and Allan Hadelman discuss the city’s fiscal straits on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

Click on the Facebook Live video to watch the full episode of “Mayor Monday.”

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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Comments

posted by: hartman on July 6, 2018  11:47am

Want a couple million a year? I’m blue in the face trying to find the right person to pitch this to. Call me.

posted by: Sean O'Brien on July 6, 2018  11:48am

I was the first NO in the local sales tax poll. I believe strongly in social services and am not a “privatize the world”, “the government is too big” type. I am happy to pay taxes that aren’t squandered… If they benefit myself, my neighbors alone, or all of us together. Tax revenue in Harp City is flushed down the toilet (or, more accurately, funneled to the top).

We are being taxed to death and a local sales tax would be one more nail in the coffin for the Elm City’s small businesses. It’s been a slow trend, but all signs point to problems with downtown storefronts, restaurants, etc. already (let alone businesses a mile or more from the green).

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on July 6, 2018  12:53pm

Quick thoughts:

Property taxes account for only half of the City’s revenues. A 5% cut to the budget would result in a 10% tax savings.

If you want to look at the NHPD, you should also look at the NHFD, which is far fatter. People aren’t necessarily lined up to be New Haven cops. But the fire department is a totally different story.

Where is Gwen Mills when we need her? I want Gwen to run for Mayor, as she is the person who has demonstrated the most competency in New Haven over the past however many years. Maybe she could balance and fix our budgetary woes….

posted by: Esbey on July 6, 2018  1:14pm

Many thanks for this article, which is excellent in both spirit and execution.  We need this kind of focus on detailed solutions, with a realistic assessment of both costs and benefits. 

I think we need to do most of what is in this article, obviously plus some more.  The only *interesting* opposition to these ideas is if you make an alternative suggestion that raises about as much money and has about as much political feasibility at the state level. 

The focus for next year, unfortunately, has to be on cutting costs.  But in the long run the only pleasant solution is increased economic growth. We are so very lucky that there is some modest interest in investing in New Haven.  The cheapest and best solution to our economic woes is to make it clear that New Haven is “open for business.”  We should reform zoning so that sensible development can take place by right, and to expand the set of projects that we agree are sensible. We should work to clear any red tape that is hindering business development.  We should allow Tweed to expand, helping to attract business and jobs.

Given our horrible, inequitable local property-tax based system, growing the grand list is the only long-term solution to budget woes.  A side effect will be more jobs and better retail choices.  We can do it, but we have to face down the forces of status-quo bias and fearful NIMBYism. The alternative is higher taxes, fewer services and, in the medium run, a possible Hartford-style downward spiral of increased taxes and poor quality government leading to increased flight from the city.

posted by: Paul Wessel on July 6, 2018  3:15pm

This is a good initiative on the part of the Independent.

I’m surprised the the city administration isn’t leading the charge on a similar approach.  If indeed we are, in Henry Fernandez and Kim Harris’ words, “one city,” this is great opportunity for all us to be engaged in a discussion about our future,where we want to go, and how to get there.

This is exactly the kind of situation you want leaders to be guiding you out of.

posted by: T-ski1417 on July 6, 2018  6:24pm

@PB

Is that info accurate, 40 out of 57 Sergeant positions are not filled???

[Ouch! Thanks for catching that! I meant to type “filled.” Fortunately, I did that math based on the correct smaller number.

[And even that number was off. There are three openings.]

posted by: JohnDVelleca on July 6, 2018  6:48pm

SMH…

One last time for the brainwashed: MORE POLICE OFFICERS DOES NOT EQUAL LESS CRIME.  It’s never been shown to be the case, nor will it ever be shown to be the case.  There are many factors to consider when trying to figure out why crime occurs.  Millions of dollars are being spent as hundreds of scholars and social scientists work to resolve this dilemma every day.  Are we honestly of the opinion that the City of New Haven has solved one of the most difficult social problems of human civilization?  If so, please notify places like Chicago and Baltimore and let them know that they should simply hire more cops, put them on a walking beat and institute Project Longevity.  Problem solved, right? Not so fast, they did that and guess what happened: it didn’t work.  Strategic, proven effective allocation and deployment of police personnel has been the only thing EVER to even slightly suggest that the police can affect the crime rate positively.  Maybe crime is connected to other social factors like population density, illiteracy and under-education, unemployment, racism, parental neglect, drug abuse, mental illness and overall desperation.  Yeah, I think I may have read that somewhere.  But wait, no, it’s the walking beats…my bad.  Unfortunately, in New Haven the fear of crime has been tethered to a lack of perceived community policing that has been further tethered to the absence of walking beats.  So keep the walking beats, if you can pay for that type of deployment scheme.  But it doesn’t look like that’s possible anymore, so change needs to occur.  Maybe the fine officers (and they are truly some of the best, no sarcasm here at all) at the NHPD should focus primarily on serving our community and secondarily on fighting crime and enforcing laws.  People need real help right now, not superheros or political rhetoric….

posted by: Conorbarnes on July 6, 2018  6:57pm

This may sound like another Hail Mary, but what about looking towards West Haven and Hamden to combine departments or share services? West Haven is equally cash strapped and could probably benefit from some regionalization. Start with something simple like Animal Control and see where it goes.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 6, 2018  8:12pm

Lack of Transparency, Accountability and Honesty Notes:

1. This is a great idea - and I will forward some detailed ideas in a next post.

2. However, the core problem in New Haven is the lack of will in the mayor’s office, the refusal to listen and act by the BOA and the failure to confront the issue. If ideas are given, ignored and dismissed - the ideas presented here and more from the taxpayers in the citizen group will be wasted and a waste of time.

3. The city knew the state’s precarious fiscal health well in advance of this just finished fiscal year. To blame the state for our problems is convenient as it is untrue.

4. Leadership didn’t listen and act - they dismissed citizen presentations, dismissed the budget cutting ideas of a few alders and refused to cut spending, reduce debt or mitigate the developing deficit for an entire fiscal year.

5. The mayor’s inner circle all produced several alternative budgets with various levels of across the board cuts. Those budgets were hidden from both the public and even the aldermen saying they were working documents and not subject to disclosure. So aldermen had no benefit of internal probabilities for reducing expenditures.

6. How then, one can rightly ask, will a flurry of ideas be honestly considered, vetted and put into action? I for one, have almost no confidence the mayor or her staff will implement any of it. Their history speaks volumes.

7. There’s a very long history with this mayor and DeStefano of raising taxes, blaming others & shoveling more money at NHPS, NHPD, NHFD and using gimmicks and one time revenues. Politics drove these budgets, not competence or need.

8. BTW - DeStefano didn’t cut the budget 40% ever.

9. If our leadership thinks we have a revenue vs. spending problem - why cut expenses?

10. Bottom Line: Unless there is a mindset to cut spending, debt, force efficiencies, metric test every feel good initiative, stop providing/protecting jobs of friends - there is no hope.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 7, 2018  3:10am

History Lesson Notes:

1. Former FRAC had ideas, ignored by mayor and alders.

2. Under FRAC, city spent consultant dollars which made recommendations - all ignored.

3. Blue Ribbon Budget Review Task Force made recommendations - all ignored.

4. Annual testimony - specific ideas every year but even more so and urgently this year. All ignored.

The issue is we have to cut expenditures to meet current, not wished for revenue. But if City Hall is not willing to even consider cuts let alone make them - this will be a mental exercise. Is there any indication the mayor will make cuts? We just saw how she gutted the new NHPS chief.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 7, 2018  3:32am

Budget Notes:

1. The NHPD has too many layers of management. As we can see with the vetting of recruits, more layers doesn’t equal better output.

2. The city doesn’t need the largest police force in the state - nor do we need to rival a per capita force on the level of Baltimore. Every city reports its force to the the feds. We rival Baltimore in force protection per 10,000 residents. Do we need a force of 30 cops/10,000? No. Right sizing is critical.

3. It’s not just number of cops - it’s the excessive use of overtime. The NHPD had an overtime budget of nearly $5 million - and it blew through that number spending on average well over $100,000/week. This is a management and force utilization failure. If fixed, millions could be saved.

4. NHFD - Get an expert in here to study how many fire houses/units we actually need and what that blend should be. Not one chief or mayor has embraced this idea. I suspect it’s becaus they all know we don’t need this large a department, this many fire houses. Get a new contract and end the practice of minimum staffing - it’s a vehicle for more overtime.

5. Worker’s Compensation - This expense is soaring. Several years ago, I was told by a source the same people go out on comp every summer. There has to be abuse of the comp system or we wouldn’t have so many people on it. Where’s risk management? Does HR or insurance provider do any risk management? This should also be a function of department heads. Weed out the abusers. This line item is more than $800,000 per month.

6. Health - This is a budget item out of control. Employees pay more and are now asked to make sure they get they’re well checkups or be penalized. But the city gave them 18 months to do so. This should be shortened to 3 months. Employees need to know their numbers, get checked, embark on a bare minimum of doctor visits for early, less costly medical care before it turns catastrophic. This budget needs an audit - at one point this year, its deficit was $15 mil

posted by: Brendantibbets on July 7, 2018  8:11am

There seems to be a great deal of talk here about slashing the police department with Little or no talk to the bloated fire department.

Bridgeport has 208 firefighters and is much busier in the fire aspect of their work although they limit EMS response leaving that work to a commercial provider.

Hartford is also smaller, has less personnel, less equipment.

New Haven on the other hand is full of waste that can be eliminated both in rolling stock, personnel and costly union benefits and legacy costs.

I’d never advocate for a cut in law enforcement but looking at the fire department seems like a no-brainer. Sure unions will gripe that new haven goes on alotta medical calls but the reality is that can easily be privatized and done with smaller vehicles that will not pollute our environment.

posted by: LookOut on July 7, 2018  8:15am

can someone please share a link to the latest FRAC report?

posted by: ClassActionToo on July 7, 2018  10:59am

Do not build any new schools, allow Dr. Birks to follow through on her reduction of part-time workers, cut staff at the police, fire and public works departments Cut any redundancies and supplemental staff and services in city hall. Reduce/limit overtime pay. Realize that less money needs to go out, not necessarily more money coming in. It is a spending problem. Rescind any and all city hall raises as a goodwill gesture to the overtaxed citizens of New Haven.

posted by: robn on July 7, 2018  1:53pm

I disagree with the author about ideas expressed at the last meeting. A constant refrain was “what about the school system?” It’s 40% of our budget and central office is a poliical pattonage dumping ground. Defund it.

posted by: Brendantibbets on July 7, 2018  10:26pm

@noteworthy please dust off one of the last 3 costly consultants reports to see how the FD can be downsized. No need to find new suggestions on how to save FD funds. It’s realky not rocket science. Just sayin.

posted by: 1644 on July 8, 2018  12:22am

As I have said before: How about cleaning house in the Mayor’s office.  Why are two receptionists needed?  How about eliminating one receptionist, the Deputy Chief of Staff, the “Mayoral Aide” (whatever she does) the Director of Communication, and the Special Assistant.  My guess is that’s $500k in annual savings in salaries and benefits.
  Now, look at the liaisons the mayors has to various boards.  She is on the BoE, so why does she need a liaison?  Does she need an liaison to the Board of Alders?  Can’t she just talk to the President of the BoA?
Plus, of course, her drivers should be returned to full-time police work, which would reduce overtime.

Also, yes NHFD is over and wrongly manned. If it wants to respond to medical calls, firefighters should be paramedics and have ambulances, not firetrucks.  That’s how suburban departments operate, and they can make some money billing for ambulance service. Otherwise, just let AMR respond.

posted by: 1644 on July 8, 2018  12:59am

NH budgets $250K revenue for medical response. Branford gets $2 million for ambulance service. Guilford budgets $875K.

posted by: Mary Brown on July 8, 2018  8:46am

Leave the NHPD alone! We are doing a great job attracting new business and more home owners to New Haven with an 11% tax hike.

posted by: Conorbarnes on July 8, 2018  8:54am

Another good fire department to compare to is Worcester, MA. Worcester has 60k plus more people and double the land area but one less fire station.

posted by: FacChec on July 8, 2018  10:13am

The Mayor, the Alders and FRAC, three entities authorized by the Charter to migate deficits as they appear in the monthly reports. The Mayor and the Alders continually authorized the monthly report with the expectation that the budget close out in September would resolve dept. deficits via the sale of refunding bonds
Bonds which by charter is directed to pay the debt service line item. Both the Mayor and the Alders violate the charter provisions. At years end as debt still exceeded bond fund bail-outs, the alders simply approved the shifting of debt to the city wide debt balance now exceeding 1.5B. Frac, more recently had called them out, but, to no avail.The city at this point was buried too deeply in debt to balance its annual budget. The Mayor gives credits to her predecessor Mayor, who she said cut personnel by 40%l. Since she has been Mayor she has continually, year after year increased personnel, health care benefits, as well as the resulting pension cost.
The city has 39 operating depts. only nine have no personnel. The budget cost for these 39 is 228M 45% of the total GF budget of $547M. The non personnel cost is $319M 55% of $547m. In my judgment NON-personnel cost is the line item to review for potential reductions.  The specific areas to make reductions Is the job exclusively of the Mayor, the BOA & BOE. I do not support the combining of departments because each dept carries with it different licenses and certifications. I do support rationalization of the nearby towns, even though that will take approvals by the legislature.
Now that I have placed the responsibility squarely where it belongs, we can begin to revive this fiscal catastrophe. It must, by charter, start with the Mayors proposals, accompanied by the Alders veto or approval of the budgets (6).  We should have for responsible resident taxpayers on the board of finance as it was under Biagio DiLieto   1980–1989 Democrat.1990–1993   John C. Daniels   Democrat.

posted by: Statestreeter on July 8, 2018  10:53am

@paul bass

It’s disappointing to read what I considered an invaluable resource of facts and exposed government that the Indy once was.  You’ve become the magicians assistant. Helping to distract the audience while the trick is completed.

The was and has been clear and concise suggestion on how to save money with government in New Haven.  Many people have testified at budget hearings and other forums on how to achieve efficiencies. Only to be completely disregarded by the Mayor and the equally incompetent Alders.

Your request is just an atttempt to give the Harp administration a forum to have the last word in some canned interview after spinning any suggestions into some chicken little story.

But for the sake of being pulled in let’s go back to the beginning of the fiscal year when multi million dollar deficits were being reported. Here is what should have been done.

Freeze wages in new union contracts

Freeze wages of your executive management staff and don’t issue them retro active payments back to July 1, 2017

Those 2 things alone account for millions.

Your welcome

[Paul: Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure an administration has the power to simply freeze union contracts. Unless they can do that de facto — rather than end up in arbitration where that position often loses, since a freeze is in fact a pay cut given annual cost of living increases — I’m not sure we would get millions of dollars per year in annual savings. ]

posted by: newhavenishome on July 8, 2018  11:58am

Do we really need street sweeping as often as it is occurring? Can’t we cut back 50%?

posted by: 1644 on July 8, 2018  1:35pm

Paul:  To be fair to State, he was referring to NEW union contracts.  The city simply would insist it lacked to ability to grant wage increases.  This course would likely send contracts to arbitration.  In theory,  the city might win, although I suspect only if it stopped the wasteful spending currently happening like trips to China.  The MRAB might have authority to veto any contract that granted a wage increase, although it is currently stuffed with pro-labor, union people, plus the mayor doesn’t want MRAB lest she lose her illegal pay increase and foreign junkets.
Bankruptcy, of course, can re-write current contracts, changing work rules like minimum manning and cutting wages and benefits.  Doing so, however, might leave the city far below market for labor costs, accelerating the trend we see at the PD.  The only solution there would be a re-balancing of union/town bargaining power statewide, a re-balancing that would favor towns over their employees so that New Haven’s neighbors wouldn’t offer much more than New Haven. (Shouldn’t be a problem with Hamden and West Haven, which are pretty much insolvent like New Haven, but is not needed with other, better managed towns.)

posted by: 1644 on July 8, 2018  5:47pm

BTW, for those urging consolidation,  Moody’s rates Hamden (Baa2) and West Haven (Baa3)  below New Haven (Baa1).

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 8, 2018  5:51pm

ConorBarnes, I think regionalization is part of the answer to the fiscal situation facing New Haven and its neighbors, and Animal Control is as good a place to start as any. But nothing in municipal government is simple. I’m willing to bet that the three towns have different pay scales, responsibilities of animal control officers, and operational policies. This doesn’t mean that the departments shouldn’t be combined, but it is going to take a good deal of time and effort.

posted by: Statestreeter on July 9, 2018  12:43am

1644 thank you for clarifying for Paul.  Sadly in his haste to defend the indefensible he can even comprehend an obvious statement. You’re correct that I was referring to the multiple new union contracts that the Harp admin gave wage increases to. They most likely would have won freezes in arbitration based on 2 factors. The city’s ability to pay and comparable communities that have been able to secure 0% wages for multi year agreements. Harp wanted these salary increases for one reason. To justify handing out big raises to her non union staff.

The MARB oversight board, I think that’s what it’s properly called, may have some union folks on it but according to the news articles they voted down a few union contracts that had raises and only approved them after they came back without the raises and big overhauls to health care. It looks like that may be the best option for the taxpayers. There seems to be some benefits having the city under that state oversight board.

They have final say on union contracts and will do what Harp and the Alders won’t

They will make Harp and her staff justify their budget and you’ll have the MARB members who have government finance expertise asking questions, not Alders who no nothing and don’t want to really do anything.

They can give more money to New Haven to alleviate our tax burden

Sounds like exactly what we as taxpayers need.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 9, 2018  7:12am

Fire, Smoke and Mirrors Notes:

1. The NHFD spends at least 80% of its calls on medical related responses. Yet, it’s equipment and personnel is focused on fighting fires.

2. While the fire equipment and training needs to be able to respond when needed, but there is no reason to roll a truck when somebody is having chest pains or there’s been an accident.

3. The NHFD does not transport patients to the hospital and can’t if they roll a truck. So AMR, Branford, Hunter etc all do - and collect millions of dollars to do so. In fact, one of the fire commissioners in Branford told me it collects $2 million by transporting patients in New Haven to New Haven hospitals.

4. Conclusion: The NHPD needs more paramedics, if current personnel is not para certified, then they need to get that certification - and be prepared to roll on ambulances not trucks. As far as billing goes, the city could bill for the transportation to those who have insurance - and to those who don’t - don’t bill. Our taxes are already paying for the service.

5. By comparison - AMR will charge regardless of insurance, at least $700 to transport a short distance when the patient requires no supplies. It goes up from there.

posted by: 1644 on July 9, 2018  9:20am

Noteworthy:  I think you misunderstood the Branford fire commissioner, or else he is wildly misinformed.  Branford does not earn $2 million transporting patients in New Haven to New Haven.  It earns $2 million responding to calls and transporting patients from Branford to New Haven.  It will, occasionally, make mutual aid calls to neighboring communities,  but certainly doesn’t make a habit of servicing New Haven.  (Branford Fire is often has all its units out, and asks for mutual aid from Guilford or AMR, which will then bill the customer and the revenue will flow to Guilford or AMR.). New Haven’s density means it does need greater emphasis on fire fighting than Branford,  but the call numbers do show that, like Branford, and nearly every other fire department,  its primary focus should be EMS, not firefighting.  BTW, ALL Branford’s professional firefighters are paramedics.  They spend most of every day responding to medical calls,  with a fire perhaps every few weeks, if that.

posted by: 1644 on July 9, 2018  9:31am

State:  The problem is that Harp doesn’t want to say the city doesn’t have an ability to pay raises.  If that’s true, not only did it not have the ability to pay raises to her immediate staff, it didn’t have the ability to cut the mill rate in an election year, give her a raise, fund a trip to China, fund a dedicated police detail for her, fund all her other pets.  Yes,  New Haven needs outside oversight, but New Haven’s elected officials, primarily Harp, want to cook the books so that they can justify their irresponsible spending, and support their political constituencies with spending.  Given the heavy union bent of the current MARB, I am surprised it insisted on no raises,  but that’s good news if it did.  (BTW, MARB stands for Municipal Accountability Review Board, so adding “oversight board” after MARB is redundant.). Bravo Zulu to the FRAC for showing how Harp, Jones, and the BoA have been cooking the books.

posted by: robn on July 9, 2018  10:08am

Freeze construction on the new school and library. They knew the budget was a problem and forced this on taxpayers anyway.

posted by: FacChec on July 9, 2018  10:20am

@1644 on July 9, 2018 10:31am

I Hope this Alders notice of public hearing satisfies your interest in the management executive raises. The BOF is holding a hearing tonight on the this subject. (see last paragraph). Hope to see you all there….


Board of Alders
Aldermanic Notice
by STAFF | Jul 3, 2018 10:53 am

The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday, July 9, 2018, at 6:00 P.M, in the Aldermanic Chambers, 165 Church St., New Haven, to act upon the following;

ORDER APPROVING THE SUCCESSOR COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY OF NEW HAVEN AND THE NEW HAVEN ATTORNEYS UNION, LOCAL 1303‑464 AFSCME, COUNCIL 4 DATED JULY 1, 2016 TO JUNE 30, 2020.

ORDER TO READ AND FILE THE UPDATED BUDGETARY AND FINANCIAL REPORTS FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 30, 2018 IN COMPLIANCE WITH ARTICLE VIII SECTION 5 OF THE CHARTER.

ORDER TO READ AND FILE THE UPDATED BUDGETARY AND FINANCIAL REPORTS FOR THE MONTH OF MAY 31, 2018 IN COMPLIANCE WITH ARTICLE VIII SECTION 5 OF THE CHARTER.

ORDINANCE AMENDMENT REGARDING THE SALARY ADJUSTMENTS MADE BY THE MAYOR

These items are filed with the City Clerk and may be inspected at Room 202, 200 Orange St., New Haven.  Per order: Hon. Evette Hamilton, Chair.  Attest:  Michael Smart, City Clerk.
If you need a disability related accommodation, please call three business days in advance 946 8122 (voice) or 946 8582 (TTY).

posted by: HewNaven on July 9, 2018  12:45pm

Sales tax on restaurant bills and other “luxury” items… HELL YES!

Cities like New Haven have been paralyzed by the suburban-dominated CGA. We absolutely need more regular ways to produce revenue.

posted by: Howudoin on July 10, 2018  5:36am

So as someone who may know a cop or two I’m pretty well informed as to how community policing works. Whether you a for it or against it is irrelevant at this time.
So the dept. is down about 100 cops from the budgeted number.
Some say that’s enough cops, others say, not enough.
Point number one, there are NO walking beats, maybe a few downtown on the green, but that’s it.
As of last winter, there were no more walking beats. If you see any, they’re probably a security extra duty detail, getting paid by a third party, not the city.
Also, when stating that 385 cops are enough to run a city dept. That may be true. But when you say cops, what exactly do you mean? There are NOT 385 patrol officers working.
A vast majority are working 6 month details in drug/gun units.
But cops, actually pushing a car around the city. You have 2 cops per district on overnights. I know it and i see it. There are 10 districts. Do the math.
If your telling me 385 patrol Officers can do it- I’d have to say the dept. needs an overhaul and needs to put COPS back in uniform and on the street.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on July 10, 2018  5:48am

Ask Corporation Counsel [and/or?] for a list of city employees who can be let go—then give every one of them a pink slip, but with a notice that they can reapply for their job. Then crunch the numbers to see which positions—if any—can be refilled. I remember when John Daniels first took office as mayor. He soon discovered that his predecessor had concealed a massive deficit, so immediately began layoffs. The cuts were so severe that New Haven didn’t even have the staff to mow grass on the New Haven green, which soon looked like a cow pasture.  But we survived. The same needs to happen again. And we’ll survive.

posted by: win win on July 11, 2018  5:46pm

We look like a bunch of idiots arguing over what crumb to cut off a tiny crust while the fat cats next door’s huge pie keeps getting bigger at our expense. We are either dumb or cowards.

Yale owns more than half the city. Their voluntary contribution (whatever bs that is! A carrot to dangle and to threaten to take away when the natives step out of line) hasn’t gone up since the 90s and surely hasn’t kept up with the cost of living nor of managing a city. #TaxYale

Totally agree with the comment that more cops doesn’t equal more safety. What equals both more safety and more tax revenue? Hmm more good JOBS. Lower inequality, increase the number of residents paying into the system rather than depending on it, and increase safety along with it. #HireNewHaven

posted by: NHPS411 on July 11, 2018  5:59pm

This is ABSOLUTELY crazy…