- Associated Press - Friday, December 8, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The financially struggling city of Hartford is preparing to seek about $45 million in assistance, now that a new state oversight board is in place.

Connecticut’s Municipal Accountability Review Board kicked off its first meeting on Friday. Created in the new state budget, the 11-member board was established to help financially distressed municipalities, such as Hartford, avoid insolvency and bankruptcy in exchange for greater accountability.

Hartford City Treasurer Adam Cloud said the organizational meeting set in motion Hartford’s application to become a Tier III city, making it eligible for advisory assistance and state loans and grants. Under the new initiative, there are four designated tiers for municipalities, based the seriousness of their fiscal problems. Tier IV involves the most state oversight of the city or town.

“We’re going to move on it quickly on Monday,” Cloud said of the state assistance. That’s when the Hartford City Council is scheduled to authorize Democratic Mayor Luke Bronin to apply to become a Tier III city. Bronin currently is mulling a possible run for governor in 2018.

Hartford’s $611 million budget currently has a $45 million deficit. Cloud said Connecticut’s capital city, which has been facing possible bankruptcy protection, should have enough cash flow until about April or May. Now that the new state budget is in place, delayed municipal aid has been released to cities and towns.

“We can last on our own, given our current funding, without this,” Cloud said, referring to the anticipated state aid. But he said he’d like to get the state assistance during the first quarter.

Other struggling communities, such as West Haven, may also seek help from the Municipal Accountability Review Board.

The board, which still is awaiting some additional appointments, has a range of members that include former municipal officials and union representatives. The group has been granted wide-ranging powers over a municipality’s fiscal matters, depending on its designated tier. For example, the board has the power to approve or reject union contracts for Tier IV cities.

Cloud said Hartford’s wants to avoid having that much oversight.

“Our goal as a city would be to never have to give them a lot of work and stay out of (Tier) four,” he said of the board. “If we’re able to have this $45 million, I see no reason why we would ever need to go into (Tier) four.”

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