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Budget Hearings End

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

May 15, 2009

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They're over.

After two weeks of probing, if not always heart-pounding, discussion on Mayor Eddie A. Perez's $547.6 million proposed budget and its associated 13 percent tax increase on the average homeowner, the council finished up Thursday night with the city's attorneys and its police. Now deliberations begin.

Although Cityline expected a little heated back and forth between the council and the city's counsel given recent dustups, there was none. Instead, the discussion kept to the numbers of a legal department with a relatively small staff.

Councilman Matt Ritter asked whether the city's attorneys were considering booting cars of owners who hadn't paid their car taxes. City officials said they were looking into it. Councilman Kenneth Kennedy asked whether the council - and not the mayor - should have more control over unused money set aside for legal settlements. That sparked some debate.

Also, Corporation Counsel John Rose spoke broadly about the work of his department, explaining, among other things, its efforts to educate city staff on things like sexual harassment training.

Later, it was Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts' turn. Most praised the department and its work, focusing the bulk of their questions on how to squeeze more money out of a tight budget for public safety. The police department, Roberts said, still struggles with police overtime costs.

Roberts also said that the planned public safety complex on the drawing boards is a necessity.

"We are currently located on the dump," he said, referring to the landfill in the city's North Meadows. "We need to be in the community and our police department should be accessible. Right now, it's not accessible to the public. You have to catch two buses to get where we are."

The planned complex, near downtown, is "critical" for the city's safety and the department's morale, he said.

Then it came time to wrap things up. Councilman Jim Boucher, chairman of the end of the evening's meeting in the absence of Councilman Pedro Segarra, thanked a host of people.

"We are all very aware that our work ahead of us is very significant in terms of how do we balance city services...with the kind of tax burden," Boucher said.

Council President Calixto Torres agreed.

"We will be working very hard at putting together a budget that lessens the pain for all of us, but there is going to be...some pain," Torres said.

Also noteworthy this week -- several members of the council signed a letter to be sent to the Hartford Public Services Coalition asking for $6.4 million in union concessions. Read the letter under related links

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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