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Segarra’s Legislative Gamble Means The City Could Be Short Millions

He needs legislative action and he hasn't gotten it

By Jeff Cohen

May 08, 2012

Here’s a story we’re working on for tonight. (We got hurried a bit by a press release from the mayor.)

The skinny: Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s budget reportedly includes anywhere from $7 million to $9 million in tax revenue that only materializes if certain legislation passes the general assembly.

Guess what? So far, it hasn’t passed.

State Rep. Matt Ritter says anything can happen, but he’s concerned. City Council President Shawn Wooden says he’s concerned, too, as the clock on the legislative session runs out. The worst-case scenario leaves the city with another budgetary hole to fill.

Asked for comment earlier this morning, Segarra Chief of Staff Jared Kupiec said this:

Too early to say anything definitive and certainly no need to try and cause alarm. Right now SB 399 is pending before the House and HB 5317 is still on the Senate calendar. As long as vehicles exist, this administration will do everything in its power to work with the delegation to craft agreeable language that protects our residential tax base and creates greater balance throughout the system.

Now, Segarra has released a letter to the legislative delegation.

The story is developing. We’ll flesh it out with more details about the nature of the disagreement this evening.


The evening update follows:

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra may have a multi-million dollar problem on his hands. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, he's hoping the state legislature will save him.

Segarra was dealt a difficult hand. A recent revaluation of property in the city meant that it lost tax dollars it would have gotten from commercial properties. As a result, the city had a $56 million gap to fill this year. Segarra hit some political bumps along the way: He called for shared sacrifice at the same time that he gave managers and his office staff raises; and the city treasurer says the mayor has shorted its pension fund by $11 million.

But otherwise, the mayor says he closed the gap by cutting spending and finding new revenue sources.

Now, one of those revenue sources looks like a risky gamble. Segarra's budget assumes between $7 million and $9 million in property tax revenue that only comes to the city if certain legislation passes the general assembly. And, you guessed it, there's gridlock. Here's Segarra.

"Not acting, or to stay entrenched in fixed positions, is only going to lead to higher mill rates for our community."

Segarra said the same thing in an urgent and stern letter to the city's legislative delegation. He asked legislators to put their political and personal differences aside. He told them that the city is at a "precipice."

"A mayor can only do so much and he also depends upon legislators to reach compromises, and at this point we're not different than what's happening in Washington."

I asked Segarra whether it made sense to count on tax dollars he wasn't sure he'd get. He said that, given the nature of negotiations at the time, it did. Clearly, things have changed.

Here's how Council President Shawn Wooden characterized Segarra's budgetary assumptions.

"It certainly makes it more speculative...As I sit here right now, I am very, very concerned that the city of Hartford ends up with this session running out without us having an amendment to the tax legislation that results in additional revenues for the city."

State Representative Matt Ritter said that a compromise could still emerge.

"There is time, but I will say that every minute that goes by I get less optimistic that we will be able to do this."

And when you count legislative time by hours and not by days, the city and Segarra now have two big obstacles in their way: politics, and the clock.

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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