HARTFORD —— Mayor Pedro Segarra on Thursday rejected more than half the cuts made to his proposed $543.9 million budget by the city council, opting for an additional $3.9 million in reductions instead of the $8.6 million approved by the council.
Segarra vetoed a council proposal that would have required all non-union city employees to take progressive furlough days, meaning the higher someone's pay scale, the more furlough days he or she would take. The furloughs would have saved the city about $281,000, according to documents provided by the council.
The mayor affirmed about $3.9 million of the council's cuts, including a $1 million reduction to the police department budget (the council had approved $2 million); a $500,000 reduction to the fire department budget (the council had approved $1 million); a $168,396 cut to the registrar of voters' office (the council had approved $377,260); and a $150,000 cut to the human resources department (the council had approved $500,000).
He also reduced a cut to 12 departments from $681,160 to $517,660.
The mayor said by upholding nearly half of the cuts, he was meeting the council halfway.
"What I submitted to council today represents the compromise necessary to keep city services and public safety intact in the way our constituents need and deserve," he said in a prepared statement. "Council proposed $8.6 million in additional cuts but did not factor in attrition; therefore [its] total reduction is approximately $7 million. I am proposing a net decrease of approximately $3.9 million for a total spending reduction of over $50 million dollars for [fiscal year 2013-14]."
Segarra's budget proposal, released in April, already had called for about $47.7 million in departmental cuts.
He said he vetoed the furlough proposal because it "disproportionately impacts certain classifications of staff" and "causes significant management and oversight issues." Additionally, he said, the resolution "does not represent a reduction or elimination of an item of expense and thus falls outside the scope of council's budget review."
The council needs a super-majority vote -- or seven members voting in favor -- to override any of the mayor's changes to the budget.
Council President Shawn Wooden said Thursday that he does not support Segarra's changes. He said the council had originally been considering as much as $14 million in budget cuts to avoid having to take money from the city's rainy day fund, but came down to $8.6 million during negotiations with the mayor. The mayor's proposal calls for a withdrawal of $13.5 million from the rainy day fund — which has about $26 million — to balance the budget without a tax rate increase.
Wooden, a Democrat, said the council had not yet talked about whether it would override the mayor's changes. He said he was exploring whether it was even legal for the mayor to make adjustments to council budget cuts.
Councilman Larry Deutsch, the panel's minority leader and a member of the Working Families Party, said he also had concerns about whether the mayor has the legal authority to disapprove the cuts.
"What gives the mayor the right to insist that certain things be in the budget when the city council says it should not be in the budget and we don't have enough money for it?" he said.
The city charter states that "the mayor may reduce or disapprove any item or items of expenditure in any proposed appropriation."
"Every single [council amendment] is an expenditure, they're just negotiating the amount to be paid out in those expenditures," said Maribel La Luz, Segarra's spokeswoman.
Saundra Kee Borges, the city's corporation counsel, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Councilman Alexander Aponte, another Democrat who is the panel's majority leader, said he would likely support the changes.
"He cites legal precedents, statutes and the charter," he said of the mayor. "It seems he has a substantive legal basis for his actions, and if that's so, I will certainly be supporting it."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at