New Haven Braces For Bad Economy – Saying No To School Spending

A plan to cut city spending that will hit schools hard was unveiled Wednesday by New Haven leaders.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano predicted at a news conference that the nation's credit crisis will continue into the foreseeable future.  He said that it could lead to more home foreclosures in New Haven and cuts in state aid that will have a serious negative impact on the city.   

The mayor said his administration will address the budget shortfall by delaying or canceling construction of new city schools, seeking an increase in the state sales tax, and buying up abandoned buildings to prevent more vacancies.The principal of the Vincent E. Mauro School told students last week that the school was going to have to close. 

"That'll be the second school public school we'll have closed in a year," DeStefano said.  "Both projects together are $74 million in construction that we won't have to do and that will allow us some operating savings," he added. 

The students at the Mauro school will be merged with the students at the Sheridan magnet school, according to administrators.

DeStefano also pledged to again turn to city workers for contract concessions. 

The head of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, David Cicarella, expressed sympathy, "This is not a city problem, it's not a state problem, there's financial problems throughout the country - throughout the world in fact."  He said the teachers recognized the problem as a legitimate one. 

Cicarella said the question becomes, "what are we going to do about it?"

While the Mauro school won't be renovated, New Haven recently built or renovated twenty-five schools.  "We have another five or so that are under construction," said Superintendent Reginald Mayo.  He told reporters that he does not think those five schools are affected by DeStefano's plan.
DeStefano said he could see more than seven hundred new vacant buildings popping up throughout the city as the economy deteriorates.  He added that the downturn would trigger an increase in crime.

Burglaries are up 20 percent, according to the mayor.  "Three of the shootings we've had in the last week were of Mexican residents of the city who were assaulted," he said. 

"We're seeing thefts of copper, copper wire, brass fixtures, we've lost manhole covers," DeStefano explained.

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