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New Haven mayor’s first budget plan includes ‘modest’ tax increase, cuts to fire and police departments jobs

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — If you live in New Haven, hold on tight because your tax bill could be going up.

“I wanted to submit to you an honest budget,” Mayor Justin Elicker said on Monday while introducing his first budget plan. “And I think that I’ve accomplished that.”

In his budget, Elicker plans to tackle the city’s debt crisis head-on by calling for program cuts and what he calls a “modest” tax increase.

“We’ve cut some programs, we’ve reduced funding for programs, we’ve reduced funding for arts and ideas, for town green, eliminated Market New Haven, parking for hybrid vehicles; we have increased fees for larger developers and gained fees from the parking authority and from Yale University,” said Elicker.

He also said he wants to cut 80 unfilled city jobs — a majority of which are with the police department, which is already stretched thin.

New Haven Police Chief Otono Reyes said he understands the tough spot the mayor is in but still worried about how it will affect the force.

“I’m absolutely concerned about this,” he told News 8. “Because, in addition to the physical spots that will have limits on, there’s going to be some budgetary cuts to my overtime, and with the lack of officers on the street, I rely on overtime to be able to supplement those positions and those services. So, it’s going to be very difficult. but we’re going to make it happen to the best that I can and a lot of this is educating the community and trying to align what their expectations are with what our abilities are going to be moving forward.”

The fire department is also feeling the heat because the proposed budget puts a dozen vacant rank and file firefighter positions on the chopping block.

“We just came out of a new contract negotiation so it will be not a challenge, but interesting in implementing the recommendations and the cuts the mayor sees we need to make in the city of New Haven,” said Fire Chief John Alston.

In an effort to save on overtime, Elicker said he plans to shift crews out of advanced paramedic duties to focus solely on firefighting. They’ll be replaced by an outside company.

“It’s too early to tell whether that’s going to be a severe impact, and I’m quite sure the mayor is cognizant of that fact that if there are issues that we just aren’t able to do I’m quite sure we’ll be revisiting that,” Alston said.

News 8 spoke with Elicker on Sunday evening before his plan’s release, and he said the city is facing serious financial challenges.

Elicker campaigned on transparency and fiscal responsibility. Now, two months into his tenure, he said he’s faced with some tough decisions.

The decision to raise taxes is something his predecessor Toni Harp did it in 2018, and it did not go over well with some residents who feel the Mill Rate of nearly $43 is already high enough.

“So, this budget is starting us down the path of fiscal responsibility but it means some challenges,” Elicker said. “I’m going to be proposing a budget that makes some significant cuts that include some restructuring. It also includes a modest tax increase.”

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