Hartford Mayor, In State Of City Address, Pledges To Close Projected $70 Million Budget Deficit
By JENNA CARLESSO
March 11, 2013
HARTFORD —— Mayor Pedro Segarra opened his third annual "state of the city" speech Monday by pledging to close a projected budget deficit of about $70 million and to remain diligent about the city's finances.
The speech took a different tone from those of previous years, when accomplishments and goals were highlighted first.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat what we all know to be true," Segarra told a city hall audience of department heads and residents. "Our city's, our state's and nation's fiscal situation is no secret. Difficult decisions will be made because we, like most, need to continue to do more with less."
"I will continue to do everything within my power to move us forward with courage, creativity and determination. It's times like these where leaders are made, and as your chief executive, I will make the decisions I feel are best for the City of Hartford, now and in the years ahead."
Segarra acknowledged that deficits have climbed each year that he's been in office, from $30 million to $50 million to the $70 million gap projected for 2013-14. Noting that he's "closed each and every gap since I have been mayor," Segarra pledged to close the imminent budget deficit as well.
He did not offer specifics as to how he would do so.
"We have balanced the budget, and have actually turned deficits into surpluses," he said. "This year will be no different."
As he crafts his proposed budget, Segarra said, he will take into account the city's needs and his commitments to education reform, park beautification and public safety.
Segarra said he would also put an emphasis on workforce training, nurturing entrepreneurs and improving city infrastructure. He said his commitment to creating jobs for residents would remain, "especially the commitment I made to the summer youth employment program."
The mayor pointed to the new development at Front Street, the decision of the Whale minor league hockey team to remain at the XL Center downtown, and Winterfest, with its 100,000 visitors, as highlights of the past year. In a nod to public safety, he pointed out that there had been no homicides in the city yet this year, the first time such a thing has happened "in decades."
"A safe city, a thriving city, a city with a growing economy filled with opportunities for young people, families, entrepreneurs, the business community, are essential principles to development," Segarra said, "and no matter what our fiscal challenges, those are principles I am not willing to compromise on."
Those attending said they appreciated the mayor's up-front attitude about the city's fiscal situation.
"What I enjoyed most was his talking about those areas we need to work on," Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, said after the speech. "I also like that he discussed how to leverage some existing resources we have. I still believe we have a lot of work to do. A lot of it starts with effective leadership going forward."
City Council President Shawn Wooden said that while he enjoyed hearing about the city's positive aspects, "There's still significant things we have to do to get our fiscal house in order."
Wooden said the council was concerned not only about next year's deficit, but also about those deficits projected for years to come. The city's budget forecast has shown the deficits growing to as much as $82 million in fiscal year 2016-17.
"We know what the city's facing and we want to manage our financials very tightly," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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