May 18, 2006
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
In a brisk noon meeting Wednesday, the city council approved with little change the budget proposal submitted by Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez for 2006-07, adding only $5.4 million more in state funding than called for in Perez's spending plan.
Perez now has 48 hours to veto or accept the $496.9 million budget, representing a 7 percent increase in spending over the current year. Perez indicated that he intends to accept it.
"There are no surprises here," Perez said. "This was a collaborative process. I gave the council a bottom line and they met that bottom line. It's a good budget for everybody."
If the proposal remains unchanged by the mayor, the tax rate will increase by 4 mills to 64.82 mills, a 6.6 percent tax increase. This means that most property owners will pay $4 more for every $1,000 of assessed property value should the council ratify the plan and the tax rate Monday night.
The council used some of the additional state revenue to fund nine new positions: five "quality of life" police officers, two new license and inspections inspectors, one deputy auditor and one assistant corporation counsel. The quality of life officers will focus on nuisance complaints such as noise, car break-ins and similar troublesome crimes. Perez's original budget plan had called for 20 new officers.
Other budget additions include $250,000 to pay high school interns to work throughout the year, an expansion of an existing summer program. An additional $300,000 will be distributed through the new Office of Youth Services to focus on youth violence prevention.
Other money goes to the library, cameras for police cruisers, the school board, the municipal employees retirement fund, the school board, First Night and the International Jazz Festival.
The school board's request for a $259.57 million budget - a 2.3 percent increase - remains unchanged in the approved spending plan.
Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson thanked the legislature for providing increased funding to the city and warned that the city can't count on the same help next year. She also suggested that the council begin working on ways to reduce the tax burden next year when revaluation is expected to go into effect. Because most residential property has increased in value, homeowners are going to feel the greatest impact.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Horton Sheff said she believes the budget reflects the concerns of residents. "I feel very good about this budget."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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