Despite tough fiscal times, Mayor Pedro Segarra managed to come up with a budget proposal that doesn’t raise taxes – but does include some drastic measures.
“While the proposed capital improvement plan maintains our commitment to invest in areas that will serve as catalysts to growing the grand list, preserving public safety operations and enhancing the quality of life, the operating portion of the Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget is far more austere, prudent and conservative,” Segarra said.
For instance, Segarra’s budget proposes borrowing $13,478,825 from the Fund Balance, commonly known as the “Rainy Day Fund.” However, Segarra said that Hartford’s reserve will still be more than those in New Haven and Bridgeport after the funds are withdrawn.
Overall, the mayor’s proposed budget of $543,921,625 reduces spending by $47.7 million. The budget will now be examined by City Council, who may make amendments. The final budget must be approved by May 31 and will go into effect on July 1.
Avoiding a tax increase in order to attract and retain residents and businesses appears to be the driving force behind Segarra’s budget proposal. “I have heard the extraordinarily loud cry from residents, investors and business owners that taxes are too high and the burden is too great and this budget responds to their concerns,” Segarra said.
In addition to drawing funds out of the Fund Balance, the mayor’s proposed budget also calls for reduced appropriations for 15 of the City’s 20 department. These reductions average out to $529,000 per department. The City will also delay hiring new staff for many vacant positions.
The budget also includes concessions from city employees totaling approximately $3 million, but there is no guarantee these concessions will be agreed to.
The City obligation its pension fund will be handled in a two-phase method similar to last year. $24,292,094 has been allocated in the current budget. The Pension Commission has agreed to draw up a memo of understanding with the City detailing a payment schedule for the remaining $13,080,359, which will be paid by the end of the current fiscal year.
Despite the concessions and cut-backs, the Mayor’s proposed budget does include significant spending in several areas. These include funding for a class of 30 new Hartford Police officers; $13 million for renovations at the former Quirk School; $30 million for road repairs, streetscape improvements and fence replacement; $20 million for new business development and business relocation; $3 million for neighborhood revitalization projects; $4 million for school facility improvements; and $6 million for improvements in Parks and Recreation.