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Friday, June 6, 2008

City pulls police overtime at parades

Budget cuts put annual events in peril

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— City budget cuts are raining on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Without the city picking up the tab for police overtime for special events, parade organizers must now raise an extra $30,000 for next year’s festivities. And, the same will go for any other parades held here.
“The city has a problem, we have a problem and we’re trying to work together to solve the problem,” said St. Patrick’s Parade Executive Chairman Robert Shanley.
The city had to foot a $34,297 bill for police overtime to cover last year’s parade route, but that expense was one of numerous casualties of budget deliberations.
Deep cuts were made citywide to homeless shelter subsidies, public libraries and Tweed New Haven Regional Airport. About 150 layoffs are expected at City Hall and the public schools by the end of this month.
The city expects to save $250,000 annually on its police overtime bills.
While the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the largest of the local parades, overtime expenses are comparable at other events.
The city paid $23,432 for police at last year’s Labor Day road race; $23,760 for the Columbus Day Parade, which will be in North Haven this year; $44,927 for last year’s Freddie Fixer Parade and $34,625 for the Puerto Rican Day parade. None will be funded this time, according to city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts.
The city will, however, continue to pay for cleanup after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, police duty on Crown Street, and DUI enforcement during the event.
“We have offered to help (the committee) approach the businesses that do benefit from the parade to see if they’d be willing to chip in,” Smuts said.
With 54 recruits in training at the police academy and readying to join the force, Smuts estimated overtime costs could be reduced for next year’s parade.
Shanley said he has received a $30,000 overtime estimate for the 2009 parade, a sum that must be raised in addition to the $48,000 needed to pay for the marchers.
“We have a challenge in front of us,” he said.
The committee plans to approach corporate sponsors, downtown merchants and the public through the parade Web site.
Anna Liffey’s owner Patrick Mansfield already holds several fundraisers at his Whitney Avenue Irish pub.
“Maybe this year we might have to do some more,” he said.
“I’m sure the parade is going to continue,” said Mansfield. “Generally, at times like this, the Irish come together and help each other out. Definitely Anna Liffey’s will do whatever we can do.”
The parade route ends on Grove Street, almost at the foot of Anna Liffey’s.
“A lot of marchers come in straight off the parade and march right into Anna Liffey’s. We get a lot of pipers,” he said. “It’s definitely a good day for us.”
Shanley said the annual parade draws 300,000 people, and is considered the largest one-day spectator event in the state.
Freddie Fixer Parade Secretary Maurice Smith said it is too early to tell whether his Dixwell community parade will go forward next year. It was cancelled this year following concerns about violence.
“Could the parade happen without overtime? Right now, there’s a good chance it may not,” said Smith. “We would have plenty of time to raise the money.”
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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