Hartford Budget Calls For Tax Rate Cut But Not Everyone Will Pay Less, Mayor Says – Hartford Courant

Hartford – The tension between tightening the budget belt and providing more services to city residents was evident in the comments of the two people who spoke at the public hearing this week at the Hartford Public Library on the $600 million budget recommended by Mayor Luke Bronin for 2023.

Bronin framed the budget as a continuation of a 5-year “fiscal sustainability” plan to continue to right the Hartford fiscal ship, which had been in what seemed like annual crises for years.

The spending plan does not include any new borrowing, nor does it include federal funds from the US Bailout Act, he said. Even with a $15.5 million increase from current spending levels, the proposed measure lowers the tax rate by 7.2%, from 74.29 to 68.95 mills, Bronin said.

“The first goal, which is a goal that we have long aspired to, and that we now have, after many years, the opportunity to achieve, is to reduce the per mile rate in Hartford,” Bronin said, noting that even with a lower tax rate, not everyone would have a tax cut.

“That means everyone will pay less tax than they would otherwise if the mill rate had remained at its high level of 74.29. … Five or six years ago it was almost unimaginable that we are able to recommend a budget with a reduction in the rate per thousand,” he said.

The spending plan provides $315.6 million for the municipal budget, of which $171 million, or nearly 55%, is allocated to payroll, benefits and employee insurance.

Of the $124 million earmarked for municipal payrolls, $89 million would be spent on public safety — police, fire and emergency services, Bronin said.

But two townspeople said more needed to be done to benefit the town’s most vulnerable population.

“People who work in social services are extremely overwhelmed right now with a lot of issues that are happening in the community,” said Tiffany Walton, who works in social services. “Of course we are still in a pandemic, students are not as engaged as they were before. There is a great need for stability in the field where I work.

“Hartford leads the nation in topping pre-pandemic eviction rates, and that’s not a list you want to be No. 1 on.”

Warren called on the city council and mayor to increase spending on “people-centric” sectors, such as social workers, mental health advocates, teachers, clinicians, libraries, arts and recreation programs .

“These are areas that invest in people,” she said.

Walton said at least some of the money allocated to public safety can be channeled into these areas.

“We know we need fire; we know the police have a function,” she said. “However, when you think of prevention, the police react to incidents. We need to invest in people-centered roles so that we can meet the challenges we face in our community.

South End resident and campaigner Hyacinth Yennie also called for increased spending on mental health services for residents.

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“We have so many people with mental health issues,” she said. “Hopefully we take care of it and make sure there is funding for it in our budget.”

The city also needs to pay more attention to school spending, home ownership for seniors and doing smaller projects that will improve the city’s infrastructure, she said.

“There are a lot of needs,” she says. “I want to make sure we treat as much as possible.”

Bronin, in his remarks before public comments, acknowledged that while he puts the city on a solid fiscal footing in the present and for years to come, the budget does not accomplish everything he would like.

“This budget doesn’t do everything we wish it could,” he said. “There are always things we wish we could do more of. There are always parts of the budget where we would like to be able to invest more.

The City Council’s Operations, Management, Budget and Government Accountability Committee has scheduled eight meetings with city departments from April 27 to May 12 to discuss needs and goals for the upcoming fiscal year.

The council, by charter, must pass the 2023 budget, which goes into effect July 1, by the end of May.