HARTFORD —— The city council Thursday continued to chip away at Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra's $546.6 million budget proposal for 2012-13, but not in public as the meeting was recessed to noon on Friday.
Council President Shawn Wooden, who recessed the 6 p.m. meeting shortly after 7 p.m., told the audience that "we are still deliberating. This process has been a difficult one. There is still more work to be done."
Before returning to caucusing with his fellow Democrats on the city council, Wooden said that he was working hard to bring people together to agree on how deeply and where to cut Segarra's proposal, but added that "there is a consensus to further reduce the mill rate."
Earlier this week Segarra proposed a budget mitigation plan that would help close an $8 million revenue shortfall in his spending plan. The mitigation plan included $2.65 million in cuts, $3 million in revenues and $2.57 million in new taxes.
But council members are still looking for more and the number being sought is between about $4 million and more than $10 million, according to Working Families Party member and council member Luis Cotto.
Sitting nearby, council member Larry Deutsch, of the Working Families Party, said, "I've got a bad feeling we're not going to have a budget," due to the wide margin of cuts being sought and some of the areas that they would come from.
One area of cuts that Deutsch proposed were furloughs to union and nonunion employees ranging from three to 16 days on a sliding scale depending on salary range. Lower paid employees would have less furlough days and more would be added as the pay scale increased. The proposal could save the city $2.2 million from unionized employees, who would have to agree to the measure, and more than $290,000 from nonunion employees.
Deutsch said Segarra should be ashamed to ask lower-paid city employees to take furloughs after giving raises to upper-level management earlier this year.
"Many people in the city feel this is unfair and not really a true shared sacrifice," Deutsch said, alluding to remarks Segarra made earlier this year.
Segarra's mitigation proposal has also come under scrutiny by R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, who wrote a letter to the mayor and the city council.
Griebel urged Segarra to "remain focused on realistic revenue projections and timely expense reduction" and expressed concern that the budget relies on "revenue assumptions that, if unrealized, will negatively impact the goal of achieving a balanced budget."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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