Hartford Council Shares Ideas For Closing $17.8 Million Budget Deficit
March 09, 2011
Raising parking fees, closing city hall on Fridays and eliminating a fund set aside for civic and cultural services were among the suggestions Tuesday that city council members shared to help close a looming $17.8 million budget deficit in 2011-12.
Councilors were asked to present their ideas for raising revenue and reducing expenses to the mayor and the public during the third of six scheduled budget workshops at city hall.
The bulk of the budget gap is attributed to a $10 million increase in the city's pension contributions, officials have said. Mayor Pedro Segarra noted that he has already consolidated some departments, and said he hopes to offset the deficit in part by moving all city employees onto the state's prescription drug plan — a move that would save nearly $2 million.
The council also came up with approaches the city could take to save money.
Councilman Jim Boucher suggested closing city hall on Fridays to save on payroll and utilities. He noted, however, that furlough days would be subject to collective bargaining.
Boucher also proposed selling off parcels of Batterson Park, a city-owned park in Farmington, and selling advertising on city vehicles.
Councilman Corey Brinson, who joined the panel in January, said the city should let people park for free downtown. The move, he said, would help draw more customers to downtown businesses.
"You give it away and you make money in the long term on the increased activity during the day," he said.
His idea differed sharply from that of Councilman Alexander Aponte, who suggested increasing the city's parking fees.
Others proposed eliminating a $300,000 civic, cultural and public service fund that the city sets aside for nonprofit organizations and other community-based groups, abolishing fee waivers for special events held in Hartford and merging departments and responsibilities, especially those duplicated between the board of education and the city.
Council members will select the ideas they believe are most worthy of further research and present a list to the mayor.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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