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.”