City Council Votes To Cut $9.8 Million From Perez's Budget Plan
By JENNA CARLESSO
May 20, 2010
The city council and Mayor Eddie A. Perez reached a budget agreement Wednesday that cuts spending by $9.8 million and requires no increase in the tax rate.
Residents' tax bills will jump, however, because of a state-mandated 3.5 percent tax increase that's required by the phase-in of a citywide property revaluation.
The mayor's original budget proposal included a 5 percent tax hike on top of that, meaning residents would have seen a nearly 9 percent increase in taxes. Several council members said their aim was to eliminate Perez's proposed increase.
"We want to send a message to Hartford and beyond ... that Hartford is still a place you can do business. It's still a place you can live," council President Pedro Segarra said.
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The council passed a resolution to cut spending in various departments. The police and fire departments saw reductions of $200,000 and $100,000 in their budgets, respectively. Nearly $7.1 million was cut from citywide salaries and benefits.
Perez said he is confident that the $7.1 million could be made up through union concessions, salary adjustments for nonunion employees, a retirement incentive program and adjustments to the pension contribution.
"We're probably going to have to work at it for 12 months," he said. "I expect cooperation from labor unions."
Matt O'Connor, a spokesman for the CSEA/SEIU local 2001, which represents 48 city employees, said the unions are prepared to talk with the mayor.
"We're eager to work with elected officials on a plan that protects the vital services [employees] deliver," he said. "At the same time, a plan that is balanced on the back of our working families is not good for the city."
Larry Dorman, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 4, which represents nearly 500 city workers, said unions have agreed to wage freezes in previous years, and the city should "find a way to tighten its fiscal belt without destroying services."
The council cut $1.25 million from the education budget, and reduced the Hartford Arts Council account, which includes the city's Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant Program. Contributions toward public programs and the unemployment compensation account were also cut.
The city has also identified $3.8 million in new revenue from a variety of sources, including licenses and permits and federal stimulus funds.
Perez announced Wednesday that he plans to sign off on the $544.4 million budget, which will then go back to the council for adoption.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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