Hoping to ease the burden for taxpayers, if only slightly, the city council on Tuesday cut $1.75 million from Mayor Pedro Segarra's proposed $547.7 million budget.
The cut reduces the city's tax rate from 72.79 to 72.29 mills. That means someone who owns a house assessed at $200,000 would owe $100 less in taxes next year. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property.
"Our ultimate goal was to cut $2 million from the mayor's budget, and we got pretty close to that," Council President rJo Winch said Tuesday. "We're confident that the mayor will support our changes and not veto them."
Segarra, while not saying whether he planned to veto any of the council's amendments, said that he and the council "are not worlds apart on this."
"It's a half a mill," he said. "I don't see that as being an incredible challenge, but I want to make sure it doesn't compromise our ability to provide the services we need to provide. I will now review the cuts they're proposing and make sure we can absorb them organizationally."
The mayor's original proposal increased spending by $3.25 million, or 0.6 percent, over the current fiscal year, and did not require an increase in the tax rate.
The $1.75 million reduction by the council was spread among several departments, including police, the corporation counsel's office and the city council.
In the police department, $300,000 was cut from executive command level expenses and $500,000 from the police overtime account.
The city council account was reduced by $90,000, and the corporation counsel's settlement account was cut by $110,000.
The council also reduced the city's health benefits account by $750,000 because of projected savings, members of the panel said.
The reduction in police overtime won't affect services, they said. The police department is installing a new computer system to more closely track overtime hours, which should make costs easier to control.
In trimming the police department's executive command level expenses, council members said they were looking to eliminate two command positions within the department. Command positions include assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs.
The reduction in the corporation counsel's account was designed to restrict the number of outside attorneys the city hires, council members said.
The panel also cut $50,000 from the registrar of voters' budget and allocated that money to the Monday Night Jazz Program, the Greater Hartford Jazz Festival and the city's health and human services department to help fund an emergency shelter for women and children.
The registrars of voters' budget was reduced to limit the number of vendors that the office hires during the election cycle.
"We believe they can manage that better," Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said. "It's not necessary to retain the number of vendors they do."
The budget will now be sent back to the mayor, who has the power to veto the changes. The mayor has 48 hours after he receives the budget to approve it or veto the amendments.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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