Mario Marrero, who teaches fourth-grade at Betances STEM Magnet School, was named the city’s teacher of the year during an awards banquet Thursday night. You can view a video of the announcement here.
We wrote about Hartford’s three finalists recently and heard from students who love Marrero and his disciplined classroom.
Marrero joined the school system soon after graduating from college in 2006. For four years he taught at Milner School, where his mother was once a vice principal. He came to Betances STEM after Milner became a turnaround school in the state Commissioner’s Network last summer.
Marrero said it was difficult to leave Milner, where he tutored students after school and coached the middle grades basketball team. But he considers the move a “blessing in disguise.”
The other finalists were Joe Battaglia, an English teacher at Opportunity High School, and David Mangus, the lead science teacher at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto noted earlier this week that it was unusual all three finalists were male.
Congrats to everyone for a well-deserved recognition.
Mayor Pedro Segarra on Thursday rejected some of the $8.6 million in budget cuts made by the city council earlier this week, saying he would approve about $3.9 million in additional cuts. He originally had proposed a $543.9 million spending plan.
Segarra said he would maintain a $1 million cut to the proposed police department budget; the council had approved a $2 million cut to police. The mayor also vetoed a plan that would require all non-union city employees to take progressive furlough days, meaning the higher someone’s pay scale, the more furlough days he or she would have to take.
You can view Segarra’s full budget message here: 5.23.13 PES FY 13-14 Budget Response Message
Council President Shawn Wooden did not immediately return a call seeking comment this morning. We’ll have more on this on the Hartford Town Page later today.
You can also view the mayor’s press release below:
MAYOR SEGARRA RESPONDS TO CITY COUNCIL’S PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS
— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—
(May 23, 2013) – Today, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra filed a response to City Council’s recommended budget cuts and made the following statement:
”What I submitted to Council today represents the compromise necessary to keep City services and public safety in tact in the way our constituents need and deserve. Council proposed $8.6 million in additional cuts but did not factor in attrition therefore the total reduction is approximately $7 million. I am proposing a net decrease of approximately $3.9 million for a total spending reduction of over $50 million dollars for FY13/14. Accordingly, the anticipated drawdown balance of the Fund Balance will be approximately $9.7 million dollars (a reduction of $3.87 million dollars and will leave a fund balance of approximately $16 million dollars). As promised, there will be no mill rate increase. The proposed modifications were done in consultation with my finance team and reviewed by Special Assistant Al Ilg.
“I have heard over and over from residents that public safety is critically important. And I have been very clear that in balancing the budget, I will not jeopardize the security of our city. Economic growth, a thriving entertainment district, developing our population is entirely contingent upon Hartford being safe. This year, we had no gun violence until mid-March – something that had not occurred in 30 years- and through the funding of new police efforts we attained a 35% reduction in homicides. While we cannot eliminate all violence, we can’t go backwards. There is simply no compromise to be made when it comes to the safety of our residents.
“While it is entirely appropriate for Council to make additional cuts there are some areas that would jeopardize the overall health and development of our City. Details exist in the formal response, but the main changes I propose are:
• A $1MM reduction to the Police Department instead of $2MM. Two million along with additional cuts to special events overtime would mean less police presence in all neighborhoods and minimum to no presence for special events. It prevents the hiring of a new police class, forces the elimination of the mounted patrol and results in job loss for many Hartford residents. It will risk us having to return millions in federal grants, effects future funding and will ultimately result in increased overtime. For many of the same reasons, I have reduced the proposed cuts to the fire department.
• No additional Departmental cuts or staff reductions. The furlough days proposed is unprecedented. We are already eliminating a substantial number of vacant positions, including non-bargaining unit employees referred to in Resolution #6, and asking all employees for $3MM in concessions.
• A $150,000 cut to Human Resources instead of $500,000. The Human Resources Department is mandatory and essential and this cut, in addition to the elimination of unfilled positions, would leave the City of Hartford without a functional department.
I share Council’s concern about the importance Fund Balance; one of the reasons I worked hard to increase it by over $8MM during my tenure. These modifications are responsible and will not harm the delivery of services or the quality of life of residents and visitors. Hartford, like all cities, has been doing more with less and yet given that reality we’ve accomplished new growth in the last three years that includes a financial surplus, new business development and an increase in the Fund Balance. We should be proud that we’ve been able to do what others haven’t in difficult financial times. I look forward to working with Council to strengthen the City’s finances and meeting the challenges that lie ahead.”
Attached is a copy of Mayor Segarra’s response filed with the Town Clerk.
Council members have expressed concern during this year’s budget cycle over the rising cost of city pension and benefits, and the drain it could have on the rainy day fund.
Council President Shawn Wooden said Wednesday that he plans to introduce a proposal calling for the formation of a task force that would study Hartford’s pension, health care and benefits structure and recommend changes that would help “balance the city’s fiscal demands” with the need to treat “employees fairly and equitably,” Wooden’s proposal states.
Task force members would be jointly appointed by Wooden and Mayor Pedro Segarra. The group would submit its recommendations to the mayor and council no later than Sept. 30.
The proposal will be introduced at the city council’s next meeting on Tuesday.*
(*Normally scheduled for Monday, the council meeting has been moved to Tuesday due to the holiday)
To view Wooden’s proposal, click here: 5-28-2013 Healthcare and Pension Benefits Task Force
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth between the registrar of voters’ office and the city council (and between the registrars and the mayor’s office) over money since the registrars’ budget was cut last year (reducing it from $763,909 to $583,909). In March, the office was running about $152,000 over-budget and had requested additional money to help cover the overruns.
Mayor Pedro Segarra proposed giving the office a slight increase (about $83,329) next year, bringing the registrars’ total allocation to $667,238. But the city council last night chopped $377,260 off of that amount: a payroll reduction of $144,500 and a $232,760 cut to corresponding healthcare, pension and other benefit costs.
Council members stopped short of suggesting where the registrars should make the cuts, but one councilor had said earlier in the day that he would like to see two of the city’s three registrars — Republican Registrar Sheila Hall and Working Families Party Registrar Urania Petit — as well as all three deputy registrars, go part-time. All are currently full-time positions. Under that plan, only Democratic Registrar Olga Vazquez would remain a full-time employee.
Hall told me yesterday that going part-time would create problems for the office. Aside from working on elections, she said, the registrars do day-to-day work, such as payroll and office management.
“This is not a small city,” she said. “The ones that are part-time are mainly in suburban cities.”
Vazquez turned up at last night’s budget-cutting session. She also was dismayed, saying the fiscal woes stemming from the registrars’ office should have been addressed differently.
The city has an unusual situation with its registrars. By state law, the first- and second-highest vote-getters are appointed to the seats. But the law also says that both the Democrat and Republican parties must be represented in the office. So Hartford wound up with three registrars, as opposed to two (like most municipalities). Vazquez was the top vote-getter this past November, followed by Petit and then-Republican Registrar Salvatore Bramante. Because Petit placed second, she also won a seat.
Vazquez said the “loophole” in the state law should have been addressed through legislation this year.
“If someone had taken a look at the state statute and addressed that loophole, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” she said Monday. “They’re taking the easy way out.”
She said city leaders should have worked with Hartford’s legislative delegation to create a bill that would change the law, so only two registrars could serve.
Vazquez said she didn’t know how the office would manage the cuts. She said the registrars would likely have to ask the mayor and city council for additional allocations throughout the year, as they’ve been doing.
“I could see us going to court more often,” she said.
Segarra has until Thursday to approve or veto the council’s amendments. The city’s deadline to adopt a budget is May 31.
The city council on Monday cut $8.6 million from Mayor Pedro’s Segarra’s $543.9 million spending plan, including a $2 million reduction to the police department budget.
Segarra’s plan increased the amount the department would receive next year by about $3 million. He said during his budget address that public safety continues to be a priority for his administration, and the increase would (at least in part) help support the hiring of 30 new recruits. The recruit class was expected to begin work with the city in January 2014.
Segarra has said the increase is also necessary to preserve crucial services, keep crime down and maintain good standing with federal grant requirements.
In reducing the police department budget, the council recommended that the following be eliminated:
* The mounted patrol division
* The positions of assistant chief and administrative assistant
* Three police cadet positions
The council also suggested that the department’s human resources and fiscal management offices be merged with city’s hall’s HR and fiscal management offices, so as not to duplicate efforts.
Council members have expressed concern over taking $13.5 million from the city’s rainy day fund to help balance the budget, as Segarra’s proposal does. The $8.6 million in cuts were meant to offset some of that, they said.
Mayor Pedro Segarra has not yet said whether he will veto any of the amendments the council made last night to his $543.9 million budget proposal, but he issued a warning to the council just before members began making cutbacks.
Segarra urged council members not to reduce spending in the area of public safety. Segarra’s proposed budget called for a roughly $3 million increase to the police department budget next year. The council went on to cut that by $2 million.
“The … reduction would force us to reduce our to the police department,” Segarra told the council. “We must maintain 481 police officers, however, 22 are paid through COPS grant a federal grant. The cuts put us in jeopardy of having to repay funds received for grants noted above, not to mention makes us ineligible to apply for other new funding.”
The panel also cut the fire department budget by $1 million.
Here’s a copy of Segarra’s full remarks to the council before their session last night (Text provided by the mayor’s office):
“When I drafted this budget along with input from City Council, all departments, the Treasurer, the community, our residents and businesses there were three non-negotiable items I heard loud and clear; (1)Our constituents would not tolerate any further cuts to essential city services (2)Businesses and residents could not afford an increase in our mill rate (3)Under no circumstances should we jeopardize the safety of our city
Through several regular conversations with Council, they made it very clear they were concerned about spending.
We started out this FY with a projected $70MM deficit- widely publicized- primarily a result of pensions and healthcare costs.
So my recommended budget took all of these critical factors into account.
We cut $47MM in spending, including cuts to 15 departments and average of $529 per department. We significantly delayed hiring for vacant positions. I requested $3MM in employee concessions, not my preference but a more sound alternative than to lay off employees during these already difficult economic times
This was accomplished without the reduction of essential city service and keeping our mill rate flat.
We did this with an anticipated $13MM drawn down from the Fund balance or Rainy Day Fund. This fund, which I have steadily increased during my tenure, still remains the highest of any major city in CT.
I urge City Council not to reduce the budget item charges that relate to our public safety in excess of what I offered as a compromise.
I want to be clear, since the inception of the STF in 2011 and other efforts, we have seen a 35% reduction in homicides and assaults with a gun. We have seen a 3.5% reduction in Part 1 crimes. Recently we’ve had a spike in crime that accompanies warmer weather but is also a result of a decrease in OT.
The suggested $2.4MM reduction would force us to reduce our to the police department. We must maintain 481 police officers, however, 22 are paid through COPS grant a federal grant. The cuts put us in jeopardy of having to repay funds received for grants noted above, not to mention makes us ineligible to apply for other new funding.
Now, we’ve been through tough fiscal times before. I know the Council and I agree on the most fundamental premise, we want what is best for the City of Hartford. We do not want to burden our residents, our businesses and we want a safe city that progresses.
We cannot compromise the safety of our City. We cannot compromise the health of our city. We can’t let our streets and parks become neglected.
I know we’ll figure out the best solution without compromising the progress we have worked so hard to achieve over the last few years.”
As the city council prepares to begin its budget-amending session today, one member is eyeing the registrar of voters’ office as a target for some of the cuts.
The office has grabbed headlines throughout the last year or two for its infamous budget battles. Last year the council reduced the registrars’ budget from $763,909 to $583,909. In March, the office was running $152,000 over budget, and was seeking additional city money to help offset the overrun.
Now, Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said, he is proposing that two of the city’s three registrars of voters — Working Families Registrar Urania Petit and Republican Registrar Sheila N. Hall (who replaced longtime registrar Sal Bramante) — become part-time employees. They currently work full-time.
The third registrar, Democrat Olga Vazquez, would remain a full-time employee, Kennedy said, because the city’s Democratic party the most registered voters.
“She’s the one who does the most work,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy, a Democrat, is also proposing that the three deputy registrars of voters go part-time. The move would save on salary and benefit costs, he said.
Councilman Larry Deutsch, a member of the Working Families Party, said he would oppose the plan.
“Anything other than full equality in function and salary among the three registrars is just outrageous,” he said “It’s political patronage. There should be no prioritization of one party over another because of voter turnout.”
Hall, the Republican registrar, said today that going part-time would create problems for the office. Aside from working on elections, she said, the registrars do day-to-day work, such as payroll and office management.
“This is not a small city,” she said. “The ones that are part-time are mainly in suburban cities.”
In addition to reducing the registrars’ office budget, council members are looking to cut the police and fire departments and eliminate several more vacant city positions, they said today.
Members have said they do not want to tap the city’s rainy day fund. Mayor Pedro Segarra’s budget calls for $13.5 million to be withdrawn from the fund to balance the 2013-14 budget.
Councilors today said they are aiming for about $14.2 million in cuts to Segarra’s budget proposal, including around $2.5 million to the police department, $2 million to the fire department, $3.8 million in vacant positions and about $350,000 to the registrars’ office.
The council will meet at 3 p.m. at city hall to amend the mayor’s budget.
The city’s latest gun buy-back program, held Saturday at the Community Renewal Team headquarters on Windsor Street, brought in more than 82 firearms, police said.
Among the guns collected were two derringers, 16 pistols, 32 rifles, 16 shotguns and one assault rifle. In exchange for the guns, Stop & Shop gift cards were distributed. Organizers offered a $150 gift card for an assault rifle, $75 gift card for a handgun and $25 gift card for a shotgun or rifle.
The program, in its fifth year, began with a push from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford Hospital and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, where physicians viewed the deaths from accidental shootings, youth suicide and street gunfire as a public health crisis. Guns not safely stored can end up in the wrong hands, they said.
Two more gun buy-backs are planned for August and December.
To view the police department’s press release about the results of Saturday’s collection, click here: 2013_05_18_CRGBBP_PressRelease_JWK Edits
Democrats on the city council have said they want to minimize the amount of money taken from the city’s rainy day fund to help balance the 2013-14 budget. Mayor Pedro Segarra’s budget proposal calls for the withdrawal of $13.5 million from the fund, which currently has about $26 million.
One council member, Democrat Kenneth Kennedy, said today that after further discussions, some of his colleagues have decided they don’t want to draw any money from the fund. When the council meets to amend the mayor’s budget Monday, they’ll likely propose $13.5 million in additional cuts to city departments, so the rainy day fund isn’t depleted at all.
Segarra’s budget already calls for $47.7 million in cuts, which would reduce 15 of the city’s 20 departmental budgets.
“I’m afraid if we take half the money out of the rainy day fund it will have a negative consequence on our bond rating, and it will cost more for us to borrow,” Kennedy said Thursday. “It’s fiscally irresponsible to take that much money out of the rainy day fund.
“You have to think about this short- and long-term. A lot of these decisions are short-term decisions. We don’t have any long-term revenue solutions.”
He wasn’t specific about which departments would face further reductions, though he did say police and fire would likely be cut by the council. Segarra has proposed increasing the police department budget by $3.4 million next year, saying public safety has remained a priority. But Kennedy said that increase would probably be reduced.
More vacant city positions also would probably be eliminated, he said, though he didn’t say how many. Segarra’s budget calls for the freezing of more than 100 vacant positions.
In the coming months, Kennedy said, he will propose that the council not approve the mayor’s memorandum of understanding with the city treasurer. The issue likely will come up later in May or in June, he said.
Segarra has said he would draft a memorandum of understanding with the treasurer that allows the city to pay about $13 million in pension contributions during the course of the next fiscal year. The rest of the contributions — about $24.3 million — are built into Segarra’s budget proposal. The agreement allows the mayor to balance the budget without a tax rate increase.
“The memorandum of understanding is irresponsible because we’ll have to take money out of the rainy day fund to pay it,” Kennedy said. “If we do it the mayor’s way we won’t have a rainy day fund left at the end of the [2013-14] year.”
Officials at city hall said this afternoon that Saundra Kee Borges, who was appointed chief operating officer by the mayor in March, has withdrawn her nomination for the position. The mayor said in statement Monday that he has named Albert G. Ilg to “serve as a temporary part-time employee to assist with the transition and to work with city council members and department heads to design the process for the permanent COO selection.”
Council members said today that Kee Borges, whose appointment as COO would have had to be approved by the council, didn’t have the support of the panel.
Kee Borges will remain corporation counsel. The mayor had nominated Juan Figueroa to replace Kee Borges as the city’s top lawyer. That nomination also will likely be withdrawn, Maribel La Luz, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said Monday.
STATEMENT FROM CITY OF HARTFORD ACTING CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER SAUNDRA KEE BORGES
— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—
(May 13, 2013) “I have thought long and hard about this decision and today I have asked Mayor Segarra to withdraw my nomination as Chief Operating Officer for the City of Hartford. This was not an easy decision but it is the right one at this time. I want to thank Mayor Segarra for his confidence in me and my leadership. At his request, I will stay on to assist with the transition and selection process of a permanent COO. I owe a lot to this City and it has been an honor for me to serve in this capacity.
Mayor Segarra has asked Albert G. Ilg to serve as Special Assistant to the COO as a temporary part-time employee to assist with the transition and to work with City Council members and Department Heads to design the process for the permanent COO selection. Mr. Ilg is a long-time City Manager, most recently in Windsor and in Hartford in 2002.
“I sadly accept this withdrawal,” said Mayor Segarra. “Sandy is an exceptional manager. She’s detailed, driven and one of the most professional individuals I have worked with. She is a true believer in the City of Hartford”
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