HARTFORD — In sharp contrast to last year's drawn-out budget process, the city council on Monday adopted a $544.4 million budget for 2010-11 that includes no increase in the tax rate.
The adoption comes five days after the council voted to cut spending by $9.8 million, and a week before the charter-imposed deadline. Last year's budget adoption came just hours before the deadline and included a 6.5 jump in the tax rate.
"Only zero was going to do," Democratic Majority Leader rJo Winch said of the tax rate increase for 2010-11. "None of us got exactly what we wanted. What we did was for the residents."
Most residents will still see their tax bills go up, however, because of a state-mandated 3.5 percent tax increase that's required by the phase-in of a citywide property revaluation. Mayor Eddie A. Perez'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. Council members said their goal had been to eliminate the mayor's proposed increase.
The council last week slashed spending in various departments, including $200,000 and $100,000 reductions to the police and fire departments, respectively. Roughly $7.1 million was cut from citywide salaries and benefits, and the education budget was reduced by $1.25 million.
The mayor has said he hopes to make up the $7.1 million through adjustments to the pension contribution, union concessions, salary adjustments for nonunion workers and a retirement incentive program.
The council also cut $100,000 from the Hartford Arts Council account, which includes the city's Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant Program.
Members attributed this year's smoother budget process to talks with Perez leading up to the council's amendments. The mayor on Thursday signed off on the budget.
"I think people just [had] to realize everyone has to play a part in helping with this budget," Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson said Monday. "Everyone has to give a little, and that's what I see in this budget — everyone giving a little."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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