Things are getting ugly between New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and the public employee labor unions. DeStefano is sitting on a $4.2 million budget deficit that could get worse through the progressing years. The mayor at a news conference last week said the problem is unavoidable unless changes in pension and health care plans with the unions are achieved. A spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition responded by saying DeStefano is “tone-deaf,” taking “a dictatorial approach” and that the mayor himself is largely responsible for the budget crisis through mismanagement.

Union spokesman Larry Dorman tells The Hanging Shad that a budget analysis has been presented to the city Board of Alderman’s finance committee. “[The report] shows that New Haven’s budget problems have more to do with [DeStefano’s] fiscal mismanagement than with anything to do with labor…We are doing our best to help New Haven. We met back in February and put savings ideas such as increased pension contributions on the table and he has responded with threats. There have already been 80 layoffs and the mayor has been nothing but contentious,” he said.

DeStefano is seeking dramatic pension and health care reform. “There’s this Pac Man in the city budget which is just eating more and more of the city budget,” he said at the news conference. The New Haven Register reports pension and health care costs have skyrocketed over the past decade, going from 12 percent of the city budget in 2002 to 22 percent of next year’s budget. DeStefano is projecting a $6 million gap in next year’s $475.4 million budget. He warned that gap could balloon into to a $39 million deficit by fiscal 2015.