City council asserts itself and halts tax increase
Hartford Courant Editorial
May 24, 2010
This is more like it.
Faced with the prospect of raising taxes on city residents by a total of 8.5 percent, the Hartford city council finally unholstered its red pencil.
The council completely eliminated a 5 percent tax increase proposed by Mayor Eddie Perez, leaving no increase for commercial taxpayers and a 3.5 percent increase for residential property — mandated by the phase-out of a surcharge on commercial property.
The council reduced the mayor's $554.3 million budget proposal by $9.8 million through a combination of cuts, revenue from federal funds and other sources, early retirement incentives and hoped-for union concessions on furlough days.
The potentially troubling part of the package is the early retirement incentive. How much more cost can be shifted to the city's pension fund? The fund has been well run over the years, but it is not a money machine, especially in a down economy.
However, the retirement package should give the unions reason to support the furlough proposal. Union leaders would be wise to cooperate: The city simply cannot afford business as usual.
Though there are elements of prayer built into this budget — that the economy will rebound and strengthen the pension fund, that the new governor won't decide to cut aid to cities — it still represents a step forward for the council.
Last year, Mr. Perez outmaneuvered council members who wanted to restrain spending, and he raised taxes 4.5 percent. This year, the council was better organized and more assertive. In achieving the cuts, the council has gone a long way toward establishing its role in what is still a new strong-mayor system of government.
That role ought to include very tight management of city spending in the years to come. Council members and the mayor must make city government leaner and more responsive, look for regional efficiencies and find creative ways to bring more jobs to the city.
Otherwise, the city isn't going to make it.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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