In his first budget proposal as mayor of New Haven, Justin Elicker is proposing a tax hike for residents, cuts to vacant positions, a restructuring of city departments and a plea to Yale.
“You elected me to make difficult decisions in challenging times, and with this budget, I believe I have done just that,” he wrote in his letter to residents and the Board of Alders.
These difficult decisions include a 3.56% tax hike and the elimination of approximately 80 vacant jobs. Some of those cuts would occur in the police department, which has struggled with officers leaving for better-paying jobs in other towns.
Although some positions were taken out of the budget, Elicker said the number of police officers on the force should still increase overall.
“We’re doing what we can. Nevertheless, we expect the number of people filing positions, sworn police officers, will increase this year,” he said.
After the mayor’s news conference on the budget, police Chief Otoniel Reyes said even with the cuts, it will still be difficult to fill all the open positions.
“We’re so diminished in terms of our strength that we still have the capacity to fill more than we can,” he told reporters.
Toward the end of his remarks, Elicker called on Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital to contribute more to the city, accusing them of not paying their fair share. They contributed less than a combined $20 million to the city while bringing in revenues of more than $7 billion.
“There’s a lot of talk at the national level, at the state level, and yes, in the halls of the hospital and university about economic and social justice,” Elicker said. “This is the question of our time, and it is 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.”
His proposal also includes a realignment of government departments. The budget merges the Youth Services department with part of the Parks, Recreation & Trees department. This would result in a Youth & Recreation Department, and a Parks & Public Works Department.