Town Council passes budget with 1.7-percent tax increase
By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Mar. 10, 2011
The East Hartford Town Council voted March 8 to pass a revised budget with a 1.7-percent tax increase, down from the 3.6-percent increase that had been proposed. The overall budget now stands at $160.1 million for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
Town Council members said the budget would maintain services and quality of life in East Hartford, and acknowledged the compelling comments given by town residents living on fixed incomes during a public hearing on the budget the previous week.
“I’ve yet to see a budget that pleases everyone,” said Barbara-Ann Rossi, council majority leader. “In light of the situation we find ourselves in… we have acted in a fiscally responsible way, so as not to adversely affect the health and welfare of our citizens.”
The revised plan raises taxes by about $74 per homeowner. It also includes $2.9 million payment, in lieu of taxes, that is expected by the town from the state. A change in Gov. Dannell Malloy’s state budget plan would have cost the town $3.6 million, but some of that money is expected to be restored.
Proposed salary increases for several town directors were significantly reduced in the final budget.
The town’s 2011-2012 budget was achieved “without slashing services provided by the town,” said Council Vice Chair William P. Horan, and it maintained necessary services such as snow removal and leaf collection.
A Republican proposal to freeze the budget and allow zero increases by cutting overtime costs was rejected by the Democrats.
“Most of the overtime comes from police and fire – they have to respond to situations that occur outside of 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.], and we have to be prepared for that,” said Council Chair Richard F. Kehoe, noting the unexpected cost of snow removal and a homicide on Naomi Drive as unanticipated events the town must be prepared to handle. Kehoe said the proposal presented by Eric Thompson, the council minority leader, “relies on wishful thinking about how much we will truly save.”
Town Council members remarked on the intense interest in the budget shown by town residents during recent public hearings.
“What I have learned is that those of us sitting on the Town Council, as individuals and as a group, want exactly what you want, every day, all the time,” council member Susan P. Skrowroneck said.