City Holds Budget Public Hearing

Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez introduced next year’s proposed budget last week, and it came with a five percent increase in the city’s tax rate.  On Tuesday, the mayor and the city council held a public hearing on the budget at Bulkeley High School.

Listen Wednesday during Morning Edition for more.  Until then, here’s an outline of what you’ll hear.

People in the audience like Cheryl Smith came out to speak in favor of the budget’s proposed $500,000 contribution to a program to create jobs in the arts.  Smith works at the city’s Artists’ Collective.  She says that money she got from the city helped artists stay employed, broaden the collective’s outreach efforts, and kept the city’s youth off the streets.

“It caused us to be able to employ 120 youth last summer, our summer youth employment and I always come and I always said what it did, it caused us not to have street pharmacists.  It gave them something to do.”

But others came out and spoke about the planned tax hike that Perez concedes will shift more of the city’s tax burden onto its homeowners.  Former City Councilman John O’Connell says the city’s tax collection rate is down.

“And you know why?  Because the taxpayers can no longer pay. It isn’t even a question of want or desire or compulsion.  It’s they can’t. They can’t.”

Diane Douglas is a resident and a property owner and says she’s struggling to get her taxes paid.

“Whenever the tax bill comes to my house, I let it stay like on the table for a couple of days or a week because I’m scared to open it.  The last time they said my name, they said it was going to go to a tax collector or something. And that wasn’t fair.  So, what I did, instead of doing eight hours a day, I start doing like 12 hours.  And make sure my bill is paid.”

The council has until the end of May to consider the mayor’s budget.

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