At Hearing, Hartford Residents Express Frustration Over City Budget
By JENNA CARLESSO
April 25, 2012
HARTFORD — Mayor Pedro Segarra opened a public hearing Wednesday by saying his proposed budget for 2012-13 was the most difficult he’s had to prepare in all his years at city hall — including his roughly four years on the city council and nearly two years in the city’s top job.
But frustrations still boiled over when some residents and property owners spoke out about the budget, a $546.6 million plan that raises the city’s tax rate by 3.5 mills. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
City officials have said the tax rate increase, along with other efforts, is meant to help offset a $56.2 million deficit brought on by the property revaluation and rise in expenses for payroll, pension contributions and money for schools. The tax rate increase would mean a nearly four percent rise in taxes for owners of single-family homes, Segarra has said.
“It seems like every year the taxes — and everything — keeps going up,” Nello Morabito, who owns five properties in Hartford, said during the hearing at Bulkeley High School. “Investment property owners have lost faith in city hall.”
Morabito said he hasn’t raised rent on tenants in more than 15 years and he’s had to absorb the tax increases himself.
“You really don’t care about the people that own the buildings,” he told the mayor.
South End resident Hyancith Yennie praised the Hartford shooting task force and said the city appeared cleaner than in prior years. But she cautioned Segarra to keep the residents in mind when handing out raises or bonuses to city employees. Segarra gave his chief of staff, Jared Kupiec, a $20,000 raise that took effect in January, bringing Kupiec’s salary to about $115,000.
“As a city official, you have to be mindful of how you give out bonuses or raises,” she said. “We got to be very mindful that our taxpayers and our homeowners — they’re at bare bones right now.”
Segarra defended the raise, saying he would continue to reward employees who were working hard. “I have to reward those people who work harder than ever because [otherwise] those people will leave,” he said.
Ronald Beckman, a city sanitation worker, reminded the mayor Wednesday that he and others in his department haven’t gotten a pay raise in nine or 10 years.
“We work very hard just like the police, just like the firemen,” he said. “We work day after day after day with the same pay, and that needs to stop.”
The city council will have an opportunity 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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