A public hearing on Mayor Pedro Segarra's $547.7 million budget drew praise Tuesday from people who were pleased that it doesn't include a tax increase.
But that didn't stop residents from airing other concerns. Among them: blighted properties, reduced funding for the public works department and the rundown conditions of some libraries and schools.
Curley Stephens said Hartford's blighted buildings provide "a haven for criminals" and decrease the value of other properties.
"We're tired of the city leaders treating Hartford like a second-class city," said Stephens, who lives on Capitol Avenue. "Blight is not an issue that's going to go away on its own."
Jackie McKinney, vice chairwoman of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Committee, expressed concerned about the Mark Twain branch of the city's public library, which she said was in "deplorable shape."
McKinney said the branch faces problems with heating, cooling and flooding, and suggested that officials move it into Hartford Public High School.
Barbara Chesky, a member of the Hartford Areas Rally Together community group, said city officials need to stop cutting the public works department's budget. Potholes and snow buildup on local roads have posed problems for residents, she said.
"Hartford residents need to know their cars aren't going to suffer any damage from driving on city streets," Chesky said.
Shawn Wooden, who is running for mayor against Segarra and attended Tuesday's budget hearing, said Segarra's budget "looked more like a political budget" and didn't address city finances in the long term.
"It's an election-year budget, not a long-term design," he said. "We have significant deficits looming. We've got to start looking ahead in terms of how we're getting the city's fiscal house in order."
But several others praised the mayor for crafting a budget with no layoffs and no increase in the city's tax rate.
Although Segarra's proposal keeps the tax rate flat, most residents 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 city council will now begin budget deliberations, and has until May 21 to amend the mayor's budget. The city's deadline to adopt a budget is May 31.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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