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Hartford Mayor Proposes Pay Cuts For Non-Union City Employees

JEFFREY B. COHEN

March 11, 2009

Mayor Eddie A. Perez said Tuesday he plans to cut pay and benefits for the city's non-union employees to save $900,000 over two years, one day after he said in his state of the city address that city employees would soon feel "more pain."

Perez's announcement covers 129 department heads and deputy department heads, including himself. He said he will not take the charter-mandated pay increase on his $135,128 salary next January, which would have amounted to $7,652.

Perez said he has asked for similar concessions from the city's unions to save $6 million to $8 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

"Today's announcement shows we are serious about sharing in the sacrifice," Perez said in a press release Tuesday. "Now we need our city unions to step up and commit to being part of the solution."Perez said the wage and benefit reductions for non-union employees include four unpaid furlough days, no general wage increase, elimination of growth increments in the pay range, increased employee cost-sharing for health insurance coverage and elimination of longevity payments.

Council President Calixto Torres, a Democrat, said Perez told him about the plan earlier.

"He wanted to set the tone for the unions to also understand how serious this is and how we all have to collaborate and share the pain," Torres said. Asked if it set the tone adequately, Torres said, "I think it sets the tone. Adequate is subjective."

Council Minority Leader Larry Deutsch of the Working Families Party said the plan wasn't adequate "at all" and suggested that a better way to save money would be to reverse what he called "unauthorized hiring" that Perez has recently done. Deutsch echoed a frequent criticism of Perez one made repeatedly at city council meetings by resident Kevin Brookman, a Republican that Perez hires people who are loyal to him at the top while he lays off staff at the bottom.

Sarah Barr, Perez's spokeswoman, said there is a hiring freeze, but some hiring is necessary. She also said that some of the hires James Keaney and Charles Crocini in the mayor's capital projects office, Miguel Matos in grants management are largely paid with federal or state money. As for other hires such as a new person to oversee the city's energy policy, as well as former state Rep. Evelyn Mantilla, who oversees new software implementation Barr said they are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Democratic Councilman Pedro Segarra, the council's budget chairman, said Perez should be aware of the message that high-level hiring sends.

"He's running the risk of people perceiving these appointments as political and not necessary for the city's proper functioning," Segarra said.

Municipal union leader Clarke King wasn't impressed by Perez's announcement.

"It's a good gesture, but it's just smoke and mirrors," King said. It's nice that the mayor isn't taking his pay raise," King said, "but my people make $26,000, and they're asked to give it back. I don't think it's fair. We're the lowest paid."

His union has been asked to take four furlough days, and to agree to some givebacks, he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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