MAYOR BRONIN’S 2017 BUDGET PROPOSAL
BUDGET CLOSES MASSIVE $48.5 MILLION DEFICIT THROUGH SEVERAL COST-SAVING MEASURES, INCLUDING: SPENDING CUTS, LAYOFFS, LABOR CONCESSIONS, AND STREAMLINING SERVICES.
Hartford, Conn. (April 18, 2016) – Today, Mayor Luke Bronin proposed a $557.2 million balanced budget proposal for 2017, which includes closing a $48.5 million deficit through significant cuts and cost-saving measures. Despite broad-based reductions, the proposed budget continues making necessary investments to protect public safety, education, library branches, youth summer employment, and programs for our most vulnerable citizens.
“Since taking office three months ago, our budget and finance team has been hard at work examining the city’s budget numbers and testing every assumption,” said Mayor Bronin. “Hartford’s fiscal situation is worse than we could have imagined, with a deficit of $48.5 million in 2017.”
In preparing to tackle Hartford’s full-blown fiscal crisis in his FY2017 budget proposal, Mayor Bronin heard directly from Hartford residents about their concerns by holding six town hall meetings across the city. He also met with hundreds of residents, community organizations, businesses, labor leaders, and elected officials to discuss priorities and concerns.
Five principles that helped Mayor Bronin form his budget proposal include: refusing to raise the mill rate; making realistic projections; finding sustainable savings; staying away from selling assets that generate recurring revenue; and continuing to deliver essential services and invest in our future.
While past budgets relied on one-time fixes for the overwhelming portion of deficit mitigation, Mayor Bronin’s budget as recommended addresses two-thirds of the gap with sustainable savings.
The budget’s sustainable savings involved difficult decisions. There are reductions in nearly every department, including the elimination of nearly 100 positions, or 15 percent of non-uniformed personnel, resulting in approximately 40 layoffs. The proposal also results in drastic funding reductions for external agencies and organizations as well as the elimination of city subsidy for parades and festivals.
In addition, the budget proposal assumes $15.5 million in savings resulting from union negotiation, and $1 million in comparable non-union employee compensation changes. Without these savings, the city must make even deeper cuts in services and personnel or fail to balance the budget.
“None of these cuts are easy,” said Mayor Bronin. “This budget makes the cuts we can responsibly make, while continuing to deliver vital services to the residents of our city. But any spending cut that is restored or rejected during this budget process will have to be offset by another cut or by greater labor savings. If we are determined not to raise the mill rate, those are the options.”
“Implementing this budget will be difficult, and it will depend on reaching timely agreements with our municipal labor unions,” said Mayor Bronin. “This year, the budget process will not end with the adoption of a budget. We are in discussions with our labor unions, and I have committed to meet personally anytime and anywhere to reach agreements. We have proposed specific terms that would allow us to achieve the savings we need. I welcome alternative proposals for achieving savings. But the savings must come, or we will be unable to balance our books in 2017.”
Even with the deep cuts and substantial labor concessions required in this recommended budget, the budget is not sustainable. This budget draws down every last dollar of available reserves and transfers Batterson Park to Hartford’s pension fund in order to offset $5 million of the required pension contribution. Even with the large reductions and substantial concessions required in the FY2017 budget, Hartford faces large deficits in the years ahead, including a projected deficit of at least $30 million next year.
“If we are going to be a healthy city that is delivering basic city services and investing in our future, there is a limit to the cuts that can be made,” said Mayor Bronin. “There is a limit to the tax revenue our small city can support, and our mill rate is already the highest in the state – by far.”
Mayor Bronin also noted that the role of the Greater Hartford region and the State must change, including by increasing Payments in Lieu of Taxes, implementing regional revenue sharing, and increasing options for local revenue generation. With these changes, the state’s capital city will be poised for a stronger future.
“With the right level of support and investment, the City of Hartford is poised to become a healthy, vibrant, and growing metropolitan center,” said Mayor Bronin. “To seize that future, we must act boldly, and we cannot shy away from difficult choices or from change. But we must also build a statewide and regional consensus that Hartford’s success matters, not just to Hartford, but to the entire state. We must build that consensus quickly, because our looming fiscal challenge is bigger than we can overcome alone.”