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Mayor Luke Bronin Monday proposed a $584 million, no-tax increase budget for the upcoming fiscal year that he says prioritizes “public safety and core public works functions, while maintaining support for the city’s most vulnerable residents and young people.”
“We’ve worked hard to put our city on the path to strength and sustainability and this budget continues that work,” Bronin said. “This budget does not raise taxes. It does not include any borrowing. It doesn’t rely on any one-time revenues. It doesn’t use any of the [American] Rescue Plan dollars to fill any gaps in our budget.”
The budget is a $16.16 million, or 2.85% increase from spending in the current fiscal year. No programs will be cut, and the budget won’t have any “significant changes” compared to prior years, but will include a provision that addresses a problem the city’s police department has had with retention.
“We’ve worked hard in the recent years to rebuild our police department, to recruit new classes, and also [we] have put a tremendous emphasis on recruiting more diverse classes, more recruits of color, women,” Bronin said. “We’ve found, however, we often are outbid and out-paid by surrounding towns and suburbs, so we’ve had a hard time keeping those recruits.”
Alongside the issue of police retention, the mayor noted how Hartford had to make “significant cuts” to the city’s workforce and has to work on redeveloping “an increase of staffing which is well below the past years and decades”.
“There’s a few places we’ve identified needs that require some additional personnel, in particular the emerging and growing challenges in cyber threats. That includes some additional positions in our IT department,” Bronin said. “Between the responsibilities they have for servicing IT needs across the city and the Board of Education in a pandemic to responding to cyber security threats and getting ahead of all of that [and] modernizing our systems, there’s more work that needs to be done there. We also have a few key positions in our Department of Public Works as well as our Health Department.”
Bronin also touched on the capital city’s plan to allocate federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, which will provide Hartford with around $116.7 million to be spent by the end of 2024.
“We’re a striking balance between meeting urgent needs of this moment and also to build a stronger foundation for a healthier and more economically strong and inclusive vibrant Hartford in the years ahead,” Bronin said.
Over the next three years, Bronin proposed that the funds from the American Rescue Plan will go to community safety and wellness, “issues focused on youth support and services,” small business support, arts and culture, housing nonprofits and addressing “critical infrastructure including water and sewer.”
Here’s a breakdown of how the federal money will be spent:
Economic and community development
The largest section of the proposed federal funding allocated to Hartford will go to economic development, taking over $47.3 million over the course of three years. This includes funding neighborhood investments, public-private partnerships and restoring economic activity to promote economic growth.
Business support and activation
A total of $15.3 million will help “improve the business climate on key commercial corridors,” while also providing loans and grants to small businesses, alongside city marketing and promotions.
Youth services and support
Over three years, $13.9 million will be spent on youth services and support. This includes “funding for organizations and initiatives to help young people in Hartford recover and heal from the isolation and disruption of the pandemic, including youth recreation, employment, enrichment, and other supports,” Bronin said.
Community safety and wellness
Bronin said $11.25 million in federal funds will be used to improve the overall health of Hartford residents, including physical, mental and emotional health.
Funding will also go to “combat the increase in violence,” that’s grown throughout the pandemic, he said.
The city plans to spend $9.5 million on critical infrastructure including but not limited to investments in improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems.
“We have a long standing differed maintenance problem when it comes to our flooding control system,” Bronin said. “That includes our pump stations, we have multiple pump stations throughout the city and they are all many decades old and in need of repair and maintenance.”
Bronin said he expects since it’s been a “long-term problem,” it would also be a “long-term project.”
Another $7 million will be spent to promote homeownership and improve and expand the quality of housing in Hartford.
The city plans to spend $6.6 million “for eligible expenditures including, but not limited to, the provision of city services and/or capital investment to the extent permitted by forthcoming guidance from U.S. Department of the Treasury,” Bronin said.
Arts and culture
Hartford will use $5.85 million to fund “summer and year-round arts and culture events,” to promote economic recovery and reactivate public spaces.
Jessika Harkay can be reached at [email protected]
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