Hartford City Council Ready To Reject Large Tax Increase
JEFFREY B. COHEN
May 15, 2009
The city council's budget work is not yet done, but one thing is all but certain:
Mayor Eddie A. Perez's proposed 13 percent tax hike for the average homeowner stands little chance of passing.
"It's not going to hold," said Democratic Majority Leader rJo Winch this week of the proposed 8.89 mill tax increase. "I'd like to get around 3."
The city council has spent the month of May going through Perez's budget, department by department. Now, the council is set to begin its deliberations next week.
Perez's $547.6 million budget calls for a tax rate of 77.23 mills, or $77.23 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Perez has said that the average Hartford homeowner would see a $378, or 13 percent, property tax increase.
Councilman Pedro Segarra, head of the council's budget committee, said that the mayor's tax increase is going to be cut by more than half.
"It seems to me that the general consensus is that no one would be able to support anything more than a 2.9-mill rate increase," Segarra said Thursday.
"We're going to hopefully ... make amendments to his budget that are practical and really work," Segarra said.
And then what? Negotiations? A veto from the mayor?
"Rather than anticipating a veto," Segarra, a Democrat, said, "what I'd rather anticipate is cooperation."
Others on the council see different numbers. Democratic Councilman Kenneth Kennedy and Working Families Party Councilman Luis Cotto want an increase no higher than Segarra's 2.9 mill figure; Democrat Matt Ritter and Minority Leader Larry Deutsch, also of the Working Families Party, say they want an increase of less than 2 mills.
In an interview, Perez said that the council has to put the money where the rhetoric is.
"Their position has been no layoffs, no service cuts, no tax increases," Perez said. "When you put those three together, it does not add up. …We have to get real."
Perez said that his budget provided "concrete choices" for the council.
"We've never faced this kind of increase," Perez said. "But we also haven't made as much progress as we have in the last five years."
"What country is he talking about?" asked John O'Connell, a member of the Hartford Small Businesses and Taxpayers Alliance.
"I think people are saying, 'Well, if you were going to kill us and now you're only going to wound us, I'll take a wounding,'" O'Connell said. "But that's not going to help the city."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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