Originally Scheduled For Thursday; Postponed To Monday
By JENNA CARLESSO
May 15, 2013
HARTFORD —— The city council has postponed its meeting to amend Mayor Pedro Segarra's proposed 2013-14 budget until Monday.
Council President Shawn Wooden said Wednesday that council members need more time to talk about priorities and draft resolutions for amending the budget. The panel orginally planned to meet Thursday at noon; the new budget session will be held at 3 p.m. Monday. The council's amendments are due to the mayor on Tuesday.
Segarra's budget — a $543.9 million spending plan — calls for $47.7 million in cuts and $3 million in employee concessions. The cuts reduce 15 of the city's 20 departmental budgets and freeze more than 100 vacant positions. Segarra has pledged not to reduce essential city services.
Wooden said Democrats on the council met Tuesday afternoon to begin discussing ideas for amendments. Several members expressed a desire to cut departments further, so less money is drawn from the city's rainy day fund, he said. Segarra has proposed taking $13.5 million from the fund, which currently has about $26 million, to balance the budget without a tax rate increase.
"Protecting the rainy day fund is a priority," Wooden said Wednesday. "We're also committed to not increasing the mill rate."
Council members have not yet decided which departments they'll cut, he said. They also may be looking to reduce the amount of money owed to the city treasurer through a memorandum of understanding by making additional cuts.
The mayor has said he would draft a memorandum of understanding with the treasurer that allows the city to pay about $13 million in pension contributions during the course of the next fiscal year. The rest of the contributions — about $24.3 million — are built into Segarra's budget proposal. The agreement allows the mayor to balance the budget without a tax rate increase.
Councilman Larry Deutsch, the panel's minority leader, said Wednesday that he and other members of the Working Families Party take issue with the $3 million Segarra is looking to get through employee concessions. He said he'd rather spread $3 million in cuts across the departments to avoid give-backs.
Deutsch said he also supports taking money from the rainy day fund, as opposed to raising the tax rate or asking for concessions.
"Many on the council feel concessions have already been given," he said. "We need fair labor contracts with cost-of-living increases."
The deadline for the city to adopt its budget is May 31.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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