According to Mayor Eddie Perez, his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year was developed within a framework of a plan he calls “Governing for Results.”
One of the results wasn’t long in coming: close to 100 Board of Education employees angrily protesting before a public hearing on the proposed budget Tuesday night at Bulkeley High School.
The teachers and other school employees were protesting Hartford School Superintendent Steven Adamowski’s cutting of several positions in his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Overall, however, the mayor’s budget recommends increasing education funding by $12.9 million to $284.5 million.
Perez is recommending a budget of $552,000,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, an increase of $26,379,886 over the current year.
As a consequence, the Mayor is asking that the city’s tax rate be increased by almost 10 percent, from 63.39 mills to 69.71 mills.
That increase is simply too much, according to Laura Kelly, a resident of Huyshope Avenue, who spoke at Tuesday night’s public hearing.
“I’m wondering where I’ll get the money,” she said.
“I’m already working two jobs. This tax increase will force the working poor out of the city.”
But most of those who spoke at the hearing where there to protest proposed funding cuts for the Hartford Public Library, the Greater Hartford Literacy Council and the schools.
Palm Street resident Laura Jones said schools in the Blue Hills area all need more funding.
“I’ve talked to all the principals.
They say ‘We don’t have enough money for books.
We don’t have enough money for nurses.
We don’t have enough money for this.
We don’t have enough money for that.’”
Jones then offered some down-home advice to the mayor and city council members.
“I want you to go back and find the money.
Just look a little harder. You know what I’m talking about,” said Jones.
Cathy Carpino, President of the Hartford Federation of Teachers (HFT), was less cordial to city officials, calling proposed staffing cuts “unconscionable.”
According to a statement released by HFT prior to Tuesday’s hearing, the school district plans to cut 3 accountants, 4.5 clerks, 8.8 secretaries and assistants, 5 central office directors, 3 classroom coordinators, 4 data specialists, 2 pre-K facilitators and 3 pre-K specialists.
Carpino was particularly vehement about recent changes in the school system’s office of communications.
She said three former Hartford Courant employees have been hired by the Office of Communications, while Jerry Clapis, who has worked for the school system for close to 20 years and once handled both internal and external communications by himself, is slated for dismissal.
Carpino also blasted the school system for appointing a new principal for Milner School who has not served as a vice principal and then “hiring a former school superintendent for six figures to mentor him.”
“There goes the money you’re looking for right there,” called a voice from the crowd in reference to Jones’ admonition to city officials to look harder for the money.
Geraldine Sullivan, President of the Hartford Public Library’s Board of Directors, led those who protested Perez’s proposal to cut the library’s budget from $8.4 million to $7.9 million.
“These cuts will force us to cut hours and staff,” said Sullivan.
“That’s not a threat; that’s reality.”
Reverend Melvin Jones of the Southwest Church of Christ also spoke out on behalf of the library.
“We all know Hartford has a literacy problem.
Reduction of funds for the library will be like pouring salt on the wound,” said Jones.
While budget cuts might force a reduction in library services, Carl Guerriere, Executive Director of the Greater Hartford Literacy Council (GHLC), said proposed cuts for his agency will force it to shut down at the end of this fiscal year.
Closed to 65 percent of the GHLC’s funding had come from the City, but no funding was included in this year’s budget.
Guerriere asked that the Mayor reconsider his decision to eliminate the funding and save the GHLC.
As back-up, he presented Perez and City Council members with over 60 letters of support which had come into the GHLC in the past week alone as well as several thank you notes from Hartford kindergarten students.
The GHLC give a free book to every Hartford kindergarten student each year.
Labor activist Clark King said all city stakeholders must work together to solve Hartford’s budget woes.
“You have the union people all sitting over here, all the management sitting over there and the residents sitting in the middle.
We can’t even sit together.
From now on, we should sit together and work together,” said King.