Friday, April 6, 2007

The Budget Part II

The Budget Process Part II:

We had a couple of intense budget workshops (workshops are hearings open to the public but the BOA hears testimony from invited guests only) over the past few weeks. We now have heard from all of the departments in the City on each of their particular portion of the budget.

We also heard about the Elderly Tax Freeze which is going to be revisited this Monday April 9th at 5:30pm in the main chamber.

I have heard from many of you and for the most part I am being told to hold the taxes down however we can. I believe that I am asking the question’s that need asking (see quotes in the New Haven Register & the New Haven Independent, you can do a search for my last name in the past 30 days and read the articles there, and I will try to post a link here as well).

A few months ago I voted for and strongly supported a spending bill that would put additional cops on our streets as well as additional clerical staff at 1 Union Station. I questioned the Chief if we still needed the clerical staff or could we out source some of the work. He said that even with the new hires we are still down from our historical highs in the late 1990's. I do not accept an answer of “This is what we had and this is what we should have again” but here I feel that it is urgently needed.

I asked questions about our Fire Department’s budget – including if we expect to reduce overtime and if we can – in some way – reduce our staffing commitments to the Fire Union. I didn’t get the answers that I liked, but unfortunately there is not much we can do.

When we met with Public Works – I asked about capital improvements for Beaver Pond Park. I was told that with this new study we have “bite size pieces” that the City’s budget can handle in the next few years. I will keep on top of them to see that this happens.

This then leads me into our budget process and what - if anything we can do to reduce spending.

Most of our budget is personal and personal cost driven. 91% of the NHPD budget is personal and direct personal costs (health care, pension, etc.) Similar numbers are seen throughout the budget. In addition we serve as a pass through for millions of dollars of Federal & State funds. This doesn’t cost us but it is a line item in our budget and increases the bottom line.

We signed some very generous contracts with our unions’ in the past year and these will be in effect for the next few years so there is no real hope in reducing the expenses associated with them for this or next fiscal year.

Remember on the 18th is our budget 101 class and the 19th is time when you can be heard as taxpayers 6pm City Hall, see you there!

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