Hartford Councilman Proposes Freeze On Hiring, Overtime
By JENNA CARLESSO
March 06, 2013
HARTFORD —— Responding to projections that show staggering budget deficits in coming years, Councilman Kenneth Kennedy is calling for a citywide freeze on hiring and overtime pay unless approved by the city council.
Kennedy said he was troubled by the projections that show a $9.4 million shortfall for the current fiscal year, and $70 million for the next. A budget forecast prepared by the city's director of management, budget and grants indicates that the deficit will continue to grow, to $72 million in 2014-15, $77.4 million in 2015-16 and $82.3 million in 2016-17.
Kennedy noted in his proposal that the city is still waiting for reimbursements from the state for school construction projects. The city had budgeted $12.2 million in reimbursements in the current budget; without that money, the deficit could grow to $21.6 million.
Kennedy's resolution will be introduced at a city council meeting Monday. He acknowledged that the plan was controversial, but said it was designed to get people to take a closer look at spending.
"I'd like to see us be proactive now, instead of waiting until the last minute," he said. "I'm under no illusions that this will be acceptable by the administration, but hopefully, it will get everyone to think about the severity of our budget situation."
Under the proposal, all requests for overtime must be approved by the council before the money is spent. Several departments, including public safety, rely on overtime for certain operations. Nancy Mulroy, a spokeswoman for the police department, declined to comment Wednesday, saying the department doesn't comment on proposed resolutions.
The plan also calls for a hiring freeze in all departments, including police and fire. Both departments have minimum staffing requirements.
Maribel La Luz, a spokeswoman for Mayor Pedro Segarra, said that the mayor's office had just received notice of the resolution.
"As always, the mayor continues to monitor any and all overtime costs," she said.
City officials have said that if they don't come up with the money to cover the $9.4 million deficit this year, they may have to tap the city's rainy day fund, which has a balance of about $26 million.
Kennedy said he wants to explore other options.
"Tapping the rainy day fund makes it more expensive for the city to borrow and more expensive to do our capital improvement projects," he said. "We jeopardize our bond rating. That is a concern."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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