Christine Stuart photo
Hartford residents asked the Mayor, City Council and Board of Education members to restore cuts to the mayor’s proposed $517.8 million budget and small business owners asked it to fix the inadvertent shift in tax policy which increased their taxes on average 62 percent.

Before Tuesday’s public hearing on the budget which will increase taxes 4.8 percent Mayor Eddie Perez addressed the plight of 206 small business owners and said he was meeting with legislators Wednesday to correct the problem.

The problem was created by the legislature last year when Perez went to the Capitol to demand property tax relief for homeowners following the city’s property revaluation. Apparently, the way the legislation was written it shifted the tax burden onto small business owners like Phil Barnett.

Barnett who is a partner in a handful of restaurants like the Wood-n-Tap, Agave Grill, and Vaughn’s Publick House said it’s challenging being involved in the business community in Hartford. He said Hartford has one of the highest per square-foot ratios in the region and right now bringing other business owners into the city would be a hard sell.

The owner of Gordon Bonetti Florist on Franklin Avenue said either he will have to add a $2 property tax surcharge to every order or leave the city where his family’s business has been since 1896.

Perez said he’s confident the situation can be fixed, but last time he went up to the Capitol his attitude wasn’t too warmly received by legislators who he needed to fix the problem.

And in a municipal election year everyone will be watching, including two of his opponents who also showed up to speak on the budget.

State Rep. Art Feltman, D-Hartford, took an adversarial approach to addressing his budget concerns. He opened by asking a question about the public safety budget and Perez said this is just time for public testimony not an exchange. “You can ask questions, but I don’t think you’ll get them answered tonight,” Perez said.

Christine Stuart photo

Feltman shot back, “When the roles revert you’ll be able to get your questions answered.”

I. Charles Mathews, who is also running against Perez, was the last to speak. Mathews graciously offered some suggestions for looking at the budget in a different way.  After hearing more than a dozen residents ask the council to restore the $500,000 that would keep the library branches open on Saturdays, he suggested they move a little extra money from the education budget to the library and not think about the budget in such a stringent fashion.

The $500,000 for the library to stay open on Saturdays was the most talked about cut at Tuesday’s hearing.

There were also a few mentions of the position created for state Rep. Kelvin Roldan, D-Hartford. Roldan started out five years ago as an aide to Perez. In the fall of 2006, he sacrificed that $74,000 a year salary to run for Evelyn Mantilla’s seat, which he won. Then March 5 he landed an $89,000 job in the Hartford Public School System. Click here to continue reading that story.