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 Mayor Pedro Segarra’s budget calls for $13.5 million to be withdrawn from the fund to balance the 2013-14 budget.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.