West Hartford Town Council Meets in Person, Postpones Budget Vote

The West Hartford Town Council held a hybrid meeting Thursday night, with some members attending in person and others joining via Webex. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Town Council held a hybrid meeting Thursday night, with some members attending in-person at Town Hall.

By Ronni Newton

Separated by plexiglass barriers, Mayor Shari Cantor and several other members of the West Hartford Town Council returned to legislative chambers at Town Hall Thursday night for the first time in more than a year.

The meeting was held in a hybrid format, permissible under Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders, with some Council members, as well as other staff members who were giving reports, joining via Webex.

Seating was available for the press, and the public was also provided the opportunity to attend in-person, with limited seating in legislative chambers and an overflow area in the Town Hall auditorium. A link was also provided for the public to provide comment via phone or Webex. The meeting was also streamed by West Hartford Community Interactive and broadcast on their YouTube channel.

The primary piece of business on Thursday night’s agenda was a resolution adopting a revised budget schedule. The Council was originally scheduled to adopt the FY2022 budget on April 22.

“This resolution would allow the town to extend its budget approval process through the end of this fiscal year,” Town Manager Matt Hart said Thursday.

When he presented his $308.6 million budget proposal to the Council on March 11, very little was known about the impact of the just-passed American Rescue Plan Act, which will provide significant funds – more than $35 million – to the town as well as West Hartford Public Schools.

“We only have cursory knowledge of how those funds can be used,” Hart said. It’s expected that the U.S. Department of the Treasury will issue guidance by May 10, and Hart proposed delaying the budget adoption to have the time to potentially incorporate some of the funding for revenue, expenditures, or capital improvement.

The town has until June 30, 2021 to adopt its budget in accordance with the governor’s Executive Order No. 10E, however the plans are to do it sooner than that. “What we would suggest, given our need to issue tax bills in a timely manner,” Hart said, is plan to adopt the budget the last week of May.

The motion to adopt the revised budget adoption schedule was approved unanimously.

Town Hall is not officially scheduled to reopen until April 19, but due to the changes in the budget schedule there will not be another Council meeting this month so the decision was made to hold the April 15 Council meeting in person.

Prior to the meeting, the Council convened as a “committee of the whole” to review portions of the proposed budget.

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