Hartford's registrars of voters office — which is nearly $120,000 over budget with about two weeks to go in this fiscal year — was just ordered by the city finance director to stop spending money. Not another penny. Not even for payroll.
The freeze is justified, even though it's only a temporary fix. The registrars can't get their spending under control. Scores, maybe hundreds more people than were needed were hired for the last general election, for example.
The registrars — there are three of them, one each for the Democratic, Working Families and Republican parties — resist attempts to get them to lower budgets, like almost every other city department has had to do.
The city has had to resort to layoffs and spending cuts in the face of budget deficits. The registrars, however, are having trouble learning how to do more with less.
Hartford's registrars sometimes don't get along among themselves, and they regard calls by other city officials to cut their spending as personal affronts or partisan political attacks.
The real, permanent problem is the tripartite nature of the office. There should not be three registrars; there should be only an efficient, nonpartisan one.
Hartford's charter revision commission has recommended just that. A small change in state law will be needed.
This could save the city up to a half-million dollars a year without loss of productivity. The city council will consider it shortly, perhaps next week.
By all means, it should be on the ballot at the next city election. Its passage by Hartford voters would save precious dollars.
Why three registrars when one would do?
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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