Hartford city council approves debt payoff agreement - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hartford city council approves debt payoff agreement

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Hartford City Hall. (WFSB) Hartford City Hall. (WFSB)

The Hartford City Council approved an agreement that would help pay off the city's debt over the next few decades.

The council vote unanimously to approve the bailout deal with the state. 

While it would help the city avoid bankruptcy, the plan isn't sitting well with some of the state's mayors who are questioning its fairness.

The state will assume debt payments going forward.

The City of Hartford threatened to file for bankruptcy before agreeing to a bailout.

"This is not a perfect scenario," said Glendowlyn Thames, Hartford Council President. 

The capital city came under state oversight back in January.

Last week, state House of Representatives and Senate leaders went into more detail and clarified a plan they're proposing to help Hartford out.

"This really gets us in a position that we're able to stabilize our finances, but we really have to focus on economic development and how we get in a position to thrive not just survive," Thames said. 

If the City Council accepts the agreement on Monday, it will be up to the state to assume the payments. It would not be one lump sum of $550 million.

Instead, the payments will be over several decades and would be less than $40 million a year.

The council reluctantly voted to support the deal. 

"I will be supporting this because we don't want to see more closings of our schools and we certainly want to make sure that the city's in the right financial footing," said Wildaliz Bermudez, councilwoman. 

Even with the agreement, Mayor Luke Bronin said the city's budgets will remain very tough and tight for years to come.

Bronin issued a statement after the approval of the payoff agreement that stated in part, "Our primary mission over the last two years has been to put Hartford on a sustainable fiscal path, without faking it or doing things that might buy time but make the problem worse down the road. We cut tens of millions of dollars in spending, negotiated dramatic savings with out labor unions, and secured a commitment from out biggest employers to be part of a comprehensive solution."

The city will also be giving up a lot of power when it comes to major projects. It would need to get state approval.

"As Hartford does as every other municipality does, it gets town aid roll money, pilot money, [Education Cost Sharing] money, all sorts of money from the state," said Rep. Themis Klarides, House minority leader. "So separate from what Hartford already gets, there was an agreement in the budget as you saw back in October as to how much we were going to give them for their assistance in helping.”

The mayors of New Haven and Bridgeport took exception to the plan.

Mayors Toni Harp and Joe Ganim released a statement on Friday that said the state is short-changing their cities while "rewarding the past practices of other cities that put them on the edge of financial collapse."

Though council members expressed reservations, they supported the deal unanimously.

"I'm going to support it, but I want to be on record that I am really leery about somebody else paying our bills," said RJo Winch, councilwoman. 

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