Spending-Cut Proposals Surface As City Fights Deficit
By JEFFREY B. COHEN | The Hartford Courant
January 26, 2009
One city councilman wants the mayor and all city managers to take an unpaid day off, the police department's spokeswoman has suggested she take a $13,200 pay cut, and the city has to figure out how to pay for three registrars of voters with a budget set for two.
Hartford, like everywhere else, is in a financial bind. Facing an $8.5 million deficit this year and a projected $40 million deficit next year, the city is looking to spend less money and take more in. It has already done things big and small, including layoffs and voluntary retirements.
Measures designed to address the budget have been swirling around the city council, which meets tonight.
Looming largest is the question of how to pay for three registrars of voters midway through a budget designed for two.
Last fall, Hartford voters elected the city's first registrar from the Working Families Party, Urania Petit. She joins Republican Salvatore Bramante and Democrat Olga Iris Vazquez.
Mayor Eddie A. Perez introduced a resolution that would maintain the $80,000 salary for each of the city's three registrars and reduce the salary for a deputy registrar from $60,000 to $30,000.
Matt Hennessy, the mayor's chief of staff, said the registrars — who already have the highest budget in the state — need to figure out how to live within their means.
And although one councilman said Petit has offered to take a $20,000 pay cut, Vazquez said the city needs to pay what's right — and keep the current salary levels.
"Once the Nov. 4 election was completed, the mayor and the city council should have prepared themselves for three registrars," she said. "They neglected to do their homework."
On another front, City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy wants all of the city's managers and the mayor to take an unpaid day off.
Kennedy said he wants to see managers and the mayor "put a little skin in the game" voluntarily "to see which managers are willing to come forward and participate in something that all the workers have had to do."
Also at issue is the contract renewal for Nancy Mulroy, the spokeswoman for the police department.
In an interview, Mulroy said she has a four-year contract with yearly renewals and that she negotiated the pay cut — from $40 an hour to $35 an hour — with Chief Daryl K. Roberts to do her part for the budget.
Perez introduced the Mulroy measure, then withdrew it this week with no explanation. Hennessy, his chief of staff, was noncommittal when asked whether Mulroy would even be rehired.
"We're taking a look at all these things," he said.
But the city council isn't only looking to save money. At a recent meeting, the council decided to spend $13,000 a month to hire former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson's federal lobbying firm.
According to Hennessy, Johnson, a Republican, will be a member of a three-person team seeking to help the city get a piece of the billions of dollars in federal stimulus money now on the table.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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