Hartford's financial managers are forecasting abudget deficit of $2.6 million for fiscal 2007-08, based on the city's revenues and expenditures through the first quarter of the year.
City staff presented a report to the council Monday outlining the city's first-quarter fiscal results.
The main reasons for the projected deficit — which is being described as a budget "gap" or "variance" — are increased overtime for the police and fire departments, a larger anticipated need by the public works department for snow removal equipment and supplies, and the receipt of less state aid for the schools than the adopted budget anticipated.
The city is projecting that it will bring in $525.1 million by the close of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2008; it projects that total expenses by year's end will amount to $527.7 million. The city adopted a budget of $511 million.
Because of the looming deficit, Mayor Eddie A. Perez's office is directing department heads to "aggressively pursue" new revenue and charging the public safety chiefs with lowering overtime costs without hurting service. Perez is also recommending a "selective hiring freeze," filling only critical vacancies.
Lee Erdmann, the city's chief operating officer, said Monday that he was concerned, but not alarmed by the forecasted deficit.
"This is not atypical of what we find in the city of Hartford," Erdmann said. "Typically, as a result of the first quarter we will project a bit of a problem or a challenge, and each year we put in whatever measures we need to so that we are at least even at the end of the year. And our record has been that we can even get a small surplus.
"This is a variance — a gap — and it is one we are going to close by the end of the fiscal year," he said.
After the first three months of the fiscal year, the police and fire departments are anticipating an increase in their overtime costs of about 17.5 percent, or about $675,000 each. Because of manpower shortages, fire officials have had to rely on overtime to maintain contractually required staffing levels, city officials said. As for police, community policing and special initiatives aimed at reducing violence have increased overtime costs, city officials said.
The police and fire departments have cadets in training to bolster their numbers and reduce reliance on overtime.
Among other factors that have influenced the projected deficit, the public works department is receiving $495,000 more than budgeted for sand and salt and increased manpower. Also, the city had anticipated $10.6 million from the state for the schools, but only received $9 million, but is continuing to fund the schools at the original level.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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