Hartford's budget deficit could be as low as $8.5 million and as high as about $20 million this year, depending on how well the city manages the current economic crisis, Mayor Eddie A. Perez told the city council this week.
In a report on the first quarter of operations, which covers July, August and September, Perez told the council that the economic conditions affecting the state are eating into Hartford's roughly $547.6 million budget.
As a result, although Perez had budgeted $547.6 million in revenue, he now thinks that figure will be just $528 million. By spending less money and working to make more, Perez said he still hopes to keep the deficit at $8.5 million. But he warned the council that more cuts in personnel and expenses could be in store if his initiatives don't work.
Perez's report does not include any reductions in state aid, which could occur later in the year, he said.
The mayor has several strategies to make more money, including audits to find personal property not being taxed. The city also is sending delinquent motor vehicle taxes out for collection and trying to sell real estate liens. Together, those strategies could make the city between $5.5 million and $9 million, Perez said.
Perez also is anticipating a $1.9 million loss in revenue that the city receives for private duty jobs, special events and other fees. To offset that loss, any delinquent customers will have to pre-pay for private jobs.
On the spending side, Perez said he expects the city to save roughly $2 million this year. The city is under a selective hiring freeze for non-public safety positions and has hired new fire department recruits to reduce overtime costs, Perez said.
Perez said he also hopes to manage spending by reducing personnel costs, prioritizing capital improvement projects, eliminating nonessential travel and limiting the use of city credit cards.
As for overtime, the city decided to add $1 million to its $3.67 million budget for police overtime to pay for several high-profile investigations, enforcing the city's curfew and other safety initiatives.
With that addition, the police department has now gone through 36.5 percent of its overtime budget. The fire department has gone through 33.2 percent, and the public works department has gone through 41.8 percent.
The city's legal department has also spent $500,000 more than anticipated as it pays for outside legal counsel on various cases, the report says.
Efforts to reach members of the city council who had reviewed the report were unsuccessful Friday.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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