City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy was one of the four on the council who voted against the recently adopted budget.
Since then, he says he's taken some heat and heard the critiques of the council. Here's his take on things, as issued in a statement.
But first, the mayor's response: "Mayor Perez is working hard on this and future budgets so that they benefit Hartford residents and taxpayers. It is counterproductive to engage in this grandstanding."
Statement of Councilman Kenneth H. Kennedy, Jr. Regarding the Recently Passed Budget for FY 2009-10
Since the conclusion of the budget process with the vote passing the budget this past Sunday, I have heard a lot of blame directed at the City Council as a whole without regard to the specific positions or vote of individual members. Further, I have heard and seen very little discussion of the destructive role the Mayor played in the resulting tax increase of 4.45 mills and the new mill rate of 72.79 mills. As a result, I am writing this statement to make it clear to the residents and businesses of Hartford where I stood on the tax increase and what my position has been regarding wasteful expenditures that has resulted in substantial tax increases while Mayor Perez has been in office.
First, let me make it clear that I voted against this budget and tried to persuade my colleagues to substantially reduce expenditures because of the oppressive tax burden already imposed upon them by this administration. This administration has raised the mill rate since it took office by approximately 52% (48 mills to 72.79 mills) resulting in a total dollars increase in taxes of approximately 95.2 million dollars. In addition, the Mayor has enlarged City government by creating more departments (ex. Office of Youth Services; Office of Young Children) thus more department head positions making over $100,000.00. He established the director of capital projects, the Mayor's legislative Initiatives and 311. The director of capital projects makes approximately $165,000.00 with a City paid for Jeep Grand Cherokee; the Mayor pays firms to lobby at both the State and federal governments and has spent millions of tax dollars on 311 with questionable results. The department head for 311 is another created position making over $100,000.00. In short, the Mayor refused to cut any of the above expenditures, his own staff (the largest of any Mayor in CT) or any top-level management position. I could not vote for this much waste and mismanagement of taxpayer money particularly in the worst economic times in 70 years.
Second, I voted against this budget because despite this tax increase, residents and businesses will receive less services, as we do not have enough workers to accomplish the core functions of government on a regular basis. Specifically the Department of Public Works (DPW) has been cut too much over the past few years to the point that they can no longer cut the grass in our parks and struggle to pick up the garbage. Development Services does not have enough license inspectors to review construction projects timely or properly monitor abandon property. This administration went out of its way to veto any reduction in upper management pay or positions but laid off several employees including DPW workers in November of 2008. In my view, we have tried to balance the City budget on the backs of those who do the actual work and protect management, especially upper level management, beyond what is reasonable or fair. Therefore, I could not suppo rt this budget given its unfairness to workers and protection of unnecessary management positions.
In short, we have too many mangers and must consolidate various departments both within the City and with the Board of Education if we are to reduce the tax burden that is crushing our residents and businesses. I stand ready to work with the administration or any member of City Council to accomplish that goal.