West Haven officials are trying to adjust the budget plan before the state does it for them

WEST HAVEN — Mayor Nancy Rossi wants the city to adopt its own budget.

“We are the ones living here,” she told city council at a special meeting this week.

Rossi presented information on some “minor adjustments” made to the 2023 fiscal budget after members of the Municipal Accountability Review Commission rejected the city’s first attempt to pass its budget last month, fearing that the city has not clearly demonstrated its ability to pay for a plan to increase pay by $10,000 for all members of the police department, as well as a 2.5% pay increase across the board.

West Haven falls under MARB Tier IV, making it the only municipality in the state to receive the highest level of board oversight under the Office of State Policy and Management . After MARB rejected West Haven’s budget, the city now has until June 15 to have its budget approved before the state board can implement its own budget for the city.

“I would prefer that we all had a say in the budget,” Rossi said.

Although the city plans to fund the initial increase in officer pay with federal pandemic relief funding, Rossi said there will be a tax rate increase when that funding runs out after two years. and that the costs will be funded by the city’s operating budget from local ratepayer revenues. .

She said the plan submitted to MARB contained misinformation regarding her contribution to the pension scheme. However, the logistics of raising the pay of police employees while managing retiree pensions and benefits has left some council members scratching their heads. Retired officers are to receive cost-of-living adjustments in their pension plans when the salaries of active officers increase, although those who retired before July 1, 1993 also receive additional compensation in their pension for the one-time increase of $10,000.

Councilman Ron Quagliani, D-At Large, who retired as the city’s police department chief, said he doesn’t think a program to retain officers should end up costing the city so much. the city to increase payments to retirees.

“It’s an advantage for retention. We want the police to stay. No disrespect to my retired colleagues who have given their time and worked hard and are now on a pension, but it is a retention benefit and the money should go to active police officers,” he said.

City Council Finance Committee Chair Bridgette Hoskie, D-1, raised concerns that the state council could determine that any budget passed by the city is insufficient.

“I feel like it’s just ceremonial. We can make changes and do what we believe is in the best interests of our constituents and they can always change everything,” she said. “I don’t question their authority to do so.”

City Chief Financial Officer Scott Jackson, a former MARB member, said he knew state officials had begun the process of developing a budget for West Haven, but the stated intention of members of MARB is that they want the city to “help itself”.

“They’re not really in the market to write the budget,” he said. “They want to see what we can do.”

West Haven is due to meet with MARB’s West Haven subcommittee on June 9, when its five-year plan, budget and police contract are due to be discussed.

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