New Haven Mayor John DeStefano says changes to city pension plans are urgently needed to keep from bankrupting the funds.
He says New Haven is facing a growing budget gap.
"Over four years the next year this is a total budget gap of $309 million. The largest single expenditure item contributing to that gap is the increasing city contribution to our two pension plans."
Plans covering city workers and police and firefighters affect 2,000 active and 2,200 retired employees. Teachers are covered by the state. DeStefano says pension plans’ assets are dwindling, and at current funding levels will run out of money within 20 years.
Speaking at City Hall on Monday, DeStefano laid out choices he sees to address the problem.
"Once choice is don’t make the actuarially recommended contribution to the plan as the state of Connecticut did. Many cities have. But that’s short term. It doesn’t fix the problem. And it doesn’t make sense and its not responsible."
DeStefano insists the city will make its recommended contribution next year. He described other options including workforce cutbacks, but says with modifications, he believes existing pension plans can work. He’s calling on workers and union leaders to acknowledge the severity of the problem.
"We get it. Everybody gets it. The economy is what it is. It’s the new normal."
Richard Guddis represents the City Council of Police. He says workers want to partner with the mayor. But by presenting his case to the public, DeStefano puts union leaders at a disadvantage.
"I don’t appreciate starting off bargaining in the foyer of City Hall. A variety of reasons, a failure to plan ahead to look 20 years into the future has left the cities in the position they’re in now. I want to be clear. Its not just the economy. Its poor planning on the part of many of our political leaders."
DeStefano says transparency is necessary because taxpayers are affected by budget and labor negotiations.
New Haven’s Police and Firefighter contracts will expire at the end of June.