Segarra Presents 2011-12 Budget That Would Keep Tax Rate Flat
April 19, 2011
Mayor Pedro Segarra presented his first city budget on Monday, a $547.7 million plan that raises spending but doesn't require an increase in the tax rate.
Spending would rise by $3.25 million, or 0.6 percent, in the 2011-12 fiscal year, Segarra said. But the tax rate would remain the same as this year, at 72.79 mills. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property.
Most residents, however, could still see their tax bills go up — as much as 5 percent in some cases — because of a state-mandated property revaluation that would increase the assessed value of residential properties.
The mayor said the spending increase is attributable to collective bargaining requirements and payments to the city pension fund. Direct contributions to the fund will rise to about $20.9 million in 2011-12, city officials said, a nearly $9 million increase over the current year.
The increase is due to "the smoothing out of losses sustained to the pension fund as a result of the market years ago," Segarra said.
Segarra's budget proposal doesn't include layoffs. He said savings would be achieved through an early retirement incentive program and by moving city employees to the state's prescription drug plan, which would save close to $2 million. About 30 employees took part in a retirement incentive program that was offered last fall, and not all of those positions have been filled, the mayor said.
Segarra also proposed creating a grants management division under the city's office of management and budget, increasing contributions to the city's youth employment program and hiring a development director.
He said he included suggestions from the public and the city council when drafting his budget.
"I met with the public before I put the budget together," Segarra said Thursday. "I heard the public say that they cannot stand a mill rate increase, and we've accomplished that."
City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, chairman of the panel's operations, management and budget committee, said the mayor is "correct" in keeping the tax rate the same.
"I don't think a tax increase is appropriate given the economic climate," Kennedy said. "The people of Hartford simply can't afford it. The tax base has been overburdened by the previous administration."
Council President rJo Winch said the council's "ultimate goal" was to keep the tax rate flat, and that was accomplished. But she said she's disappointed that city officials have not addressed filling vacant positions in the public works department.
The city council will now begin budget deliberations. The council has until May 21 to amend the mayor's proposed budget.
The city's deadline to adopt a budget is May 31.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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