HARTFORD —— The city's registrars of voters, who for months have requested additional funding to help offset budget overruns, may finally receive some relief.
But, under a new proposal by Mayor Pedro Segarra, the registrars would still have to cut their budget.
Segarra's plan would transfer $66,007 from the city's contingency fund to cover some of the overruns, which stem from "staffing decisions made by the registrars for three elections held in 2012," according to a resolution Segarra submitted to the council last week. The mayor cited the primary and general elections and another election held earlier in the year for the Democratic Town Committee. His resolution did not include a re-vote that was ordered for the 5th House District race in October after Democratic candidates Brandon McGee and Leo Canty tied in the primary.
Under the proposal, the registrars' office, which is currently $152,000 over budget, would have to make about $86,000 in cuts.
"We did an analysis of staffing based on minimum staffing numbers from the secretary of the state's office, and the mayor feels $66,000 is appropriate," said Maribel La Luz, Segarra's spokeswoman. "We found out that the minimum staffing for the November general election is 100 people. [The registrars] used 300 people."
"The $66,000 is sort of the middle ground, and represents the difference" in funding between the minimum requirements and the amount of staff used, she said.
The overruns had been higher, Segarra noted in his proposal, but the council in July approved a transfer of about $80,000 for the registrars' office, and the city's management and budget officials subsequently found an additional $60,000 in savings for the office from non-payroll items.
"Despite my directives and the best efforts of my budget staff, the registrars' office has failed to act responsibly to carry out their duties within the constraints of their budget," Segarra wrote. "Therefore, although I am recommending that the council transfer $66,007 to their budget, I am further recommending that they reduce other line items within their budget to cover the remaining $85,993 overrun."
La Luz said the mayor has not made any suggestions to the registrars about how to cut their budget. The council is considering the $66,000 transfer.
Olga Vazquez, the city's Democratic registrar of voters, said Friday that the office doesn't know how or if it will make cuts to its budget. She said the registrars would probably put in another request for funding to get the $86,000.
In seeking additional money, the registrars have pointed out that the city council cut their budget last spring from $763,909 to $583,909.
"We continue to go back and forth," Vazquez said. "I understand that [the mayor] has a job to do, but you can't disenfranchise the voters, and that's what he's doing."
The city has an unusual situation with its registrars in that it has three — Vazquez, a Democrat; Salvatore Bramante, the Republican registrar, who retired on Friday and will be replaced by his deputy, Sheila N. Hall; and Urania Petit, the Working Families Party registrar. Under state law, if a third-party candidate receives more votes than the Democrat or Republican candidate for registrar, that candidate also wins a seat. Vazquez was the top vote-getter in November, followed by Petit and then Bramante.
Vazquez said she hopes the registrars, the council and the mayor's office could come up with a better strategy to manage the budget. She said the registrars have several ideas for saving money — such as taking on college and high students as unpaid interns to help out at the polls — but some of them would require changes to state laws.
"Can we work on that instead of fighting each other, trying to embarrass one another?" Vazquez said. "What we're doing is embarrassing our town, not one another."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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