New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker is on a mission to close a $45 million gap in city funding.
In a budget proposal released Monday, the mayor says he’s requesting a 3.5 percent tax increase, funding cuts to several programs and plans to getting rid of several empty city positions.
“We’ve reduced funding for Arts and Ideas, Tweed Airport, Town Green Special Services District, we’ve eliminated funding for Market New Haven, we’ve eliminated free parking for hybrid vehicles,” said Elicker at a press conference Monday.
“We cut 80 vacant positions, or defunded 80 vacant positions, the majority of those are in the police department,” he later added.
There are about 90 empty police positions and the mayor plans to get rid of close to 30 for a savings of $3.5 million.
“That still puts us somewhere in the 76 range that we have the capacity to hire, and the mayor told me that I will absolutely have the capacity to do that,” said Police Chief Otoniel Reyes.
The cuts come at a time when community leaders say there’s progress in decreasing violent crime.
“We are at record levels of lows in violent crime in New Haven,” said Leonard Jahad, Executive director of CT Violence Intervention Program. He says the partnership between law enforcement and the community is key in making that change.
“It’s not odd that a police officer, or supervisor or detective will call and they’ll say ‘Leonard, can you get a hold of this kid before it goes too far?’”
He says the organizations work together to find solutions in the community. They hold meetings and research different approaches for New Haven. He says cuts may have an impact on how the police are involved.
“With their community policing model, it may have an impact on violent crime, hopefully it doesn’t.”
Reyes says the department is actively recruiting for those more than 70 positions still open. He plans to have a class of recruits this spring.
With the challenges the department faces filling the remaining roles, Reyes says they’ll put more of an emphasis on those community partnerships like the one with CT Violence Intervention Program.
“We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing, working with the community to help bridge those gaps that we can’t fill with physical bodies,” said Reyes.
Elicker’s budget also cuts the requested $10.8 million from the school board to $3.5 million to get closer to a balanced budget.
“It’s important to help support our school system and increase funding,” said Elicker. “They too are dealing with a lot of challenging financial situations but $10.8 is just too much – too heavy a lift for us.”
Finally, Elicker pointed to the combined $7.2 billion in revenue from Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital, saying they each should do more for New Haven.
“It’s time that you step up and make sure you contribute to this city so that everyone in New Haven can have the opportunity to thrive.”
Vin Petrini, Yale New Haven Hospital's senior vice president of public affairs, responded with a statement Monday afternoon:
“We respect Mayor Elicker and understand that the budget pressures he is facing are real. However, today Yale New Haven Health is the largest taxpayer in Connecticut, paying more than $300 million a year. At the same time, we have provided $30 million in voluntary payments to new haven over the last decade. In addition, we pay nearly $6 million in property taxes to the city annually, contribute to critical community programs like New Haven Promise and we are working collaboratively to drive down employee healthcare costs. While imposing additional voluntary payments is not the answer, we remain open to working on creative approaches with the city.”