About 150 Hartford residents came out to weigh in on the city's proposed 547-million dollar budget. That's the same size budget as the current year, but because of expected declines in state aid, investments, and property sales, it relies on an 8 percent hike in property tax collections. A diverse group voiced discomfort with the size of that increase.
By far, most of the speakers at the public hearing came out in support of the Office of Youth Services, which coordinates programs for at-risk youth in the city. Under the budget proposal, it would lose about $130,000.
Christina Morales works for a youth program in Hartford.
"And it's unfortunate to know the youth I work with everyday may be underserved in a couple of months due to budget cuts."
But she added that she's also very concerned about the impact of the higher city taxes on residents.
"It's going to be impossible for families in the city of Hartford to continue to pay their taxes."
City unions also included a critique of the tax hike in their comments. Richard Rodriguez is the president of Hartford's police union, and he spoke on behalf of the newly formed Public Services Coalition -- a group of five city unions working together to try to stave off municipal layoffs and preserve local services.
"I would also like to say that increasing taxes is not a sustainable solution. I think we all know that as union leaders."
That union coalition has an ally in the Hartford Small Business and Taxpayer Alliance, a group that has blasted the tax hike. They're calling for services to be maintained -- but costs reduced -- through more disclosure of city spending and tighter council control over city finances.
Few other speakers volunteered ways to bring costs down. In fact, there were calls for more spending -- on public libraries, and for Mayor Eddie Perez's proposed 1.1 million dollar grant program for arts and artists.
But there was consensus on one point -- the mayor, unions, and others suggested that the ultimate the solution to Hartford's budget isn't in town hall, but at the state capitol, where they called for more lobbying for municipal aid to cities.