Segarra Asks City Departments To Prepare Zero-Increase Budgets For 2012-13
By JENNA CARLESSO
February 22, 2012
HARTFORD — —
With a looming deficit now projected to be about $56.2 million for 2012-13, Mayor Pedro Segarra's administration is asking that all city department heads prepare budgets that are no higher than last year's.
Discussing estimates for next year, city officials said Wednesday that they expect to take in about $35 million less in property tax revenue due to the decline in market values following revaluation and the elimination of a surcharge on commercial properties. They also expected about $3.2 million less in such areas as licenses and permits, fines and penalties and charges for services. The losses will be offset slightly by a small increase in funds from the state, officials said.
In addition, the city will see expenses rise about $21 million, with payroll, pension contributions and money for schools going up. The increases are due to contractual pay raises and higher contributions to the pension fund, which were spurred by market losses, city officials said.
Jose Sanchez, the city's director of management and budget, said the overall budget for 2012-13 is estimated to be $568.3 million, but he cautioned that the number would change as projections change. That represents a roughly $21 million increase over the current year.
Sanchez said Wednesday that department heads were asked to prepare flat budgets for next year, but they would be allowed to make a case for more money.
David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer, said the mayor's goal is to avoid a tax rate increase. Projections released Wednesday were based on the current tax rate of 71.79 mills. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
Panagore said the city is considering numerous other options, including furloughs, delayed hirings, layoffs and negotiating for union givebacks. The city saved money this year by delaying the hiring of about 100 different positions for 60 to 90 days, and it may do the same thing next year or even extend that delay, he said.
"Until we get clearer direction from the council, everything could be on the table," Panagore said.
Asked about the likelihood of a tax rate increase, Panagore said: "We need to exhaust every other option before that issue could be raised."
The city held its second budget workshop Wednesday, focusing on revenue and expenditures. It will hold additional workshops on March 8 and 21, focusing on debt service and pensions, and the board of education, public library and Hartford Parking Authority, respectively.
The mayor's budget is due to the city council on April 16.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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