City officials are considering furloughs for all Hartford employees as a way to drive down Mayor Eddie A. Perez's proposed 5 percent tax increase for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Council members said Monday that as much as $1.5 million could be saved through furloughs. The number of furlough days imposed would depend on an employee's position and whether that person works on a full- or part-time basis.
"I don't think there's anyone on the council who's opposed to furlough days," Councilman Matt Ritter said. "There is no appetite nor has there been any conversation about layoffs."
Perez's budget for 2010-11 does not call for layoffs. It includes, however, a tax increase of 3.85 mills, or 5 percent, bringing the tax rate to 76.64 mills. That equals $76.64 for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
Council President Pedro Segarra said Monday that the panel is looking to cut costs in several areas of the budget.
"We're going through the budget piece by piece. We want to bring the increase down as much as possible, hopefully with a target of zero," he said. "[Labor] is a big cost-driver."
The council on Monday introduced a resolution to consider the furloughs. It was referred to the panel's operations, management and budget committee. The resolution is designed to "get the conversation started" about whether furloughs are an option, Ritter said.
Although members have yet to iron out the details, some suggested that higher-salaried employees should shoulder more of the burden.
"People who earn more would have more of a furlough liability than people who [earn] less," Segarra said.
Clarke King, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4 Local 1716, which represents 520 city employees, said Monday that he's against the furloughs. The union had agreed to four furlough days for the current year, he said, and workers can't afford another cut.
"We did furloughs last year, and as soon as we did the furloughs they went on a spending streak," he said of city leaders. "I'm not willing to give anything up this year."
Rhonda Moniz-Carroll, president of the Hartford Municipal Employees Association, declined to comment Monday. Attempts to reach members of the Hartford Police Union and the Hartford Firefighters Association were unsuccessful.
Sarah Barr, Perez's spokeswoman, said that talks between city officials and unions are continuing. No agreements have been made on concessions, she said.
The city last year saved more than $1 million through labor concessions, which included furloughs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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