Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Ben Barnes and Denise Nappier co-chair the board (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — The newly formed Municipal Accountability Review Board, which will be in charge of helping extremely distressed municipalities like West Haven and Hartford get their finances under control, met for the first time Friday.

The 11-member board still doesn’t have its full complement of members, but it has already informed West Haven officials and Mayor Nancy Rossi that their city qualifies for assistance under Tier III.

The City of Hartford, which lawmakers had in mind when they created the board as part of the recent bipartisan budget, has yet to seek its assistance, but would also qualify as a Tier III community.

There are four tiers of assistance the state can offer, with Tier IV being the highest level.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes, who co-chairs the board with state Treasurer Denise Nappier, said he understands the formation of the board is “anxiety producing” for folks because of the powers it possesses.

The board under a Tier III arrangement has the ability to reject two collective bargaining agreements if it felt they would have a negative impact on city finances.

Barnes said the state has already been in conversations with West Haven officials who he believes are ready and willing to undergo the review process by the board.

“We indicated to them we would likely ask them to come before us and submit a plan,” Barnes said Friday.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin has submitted a resolution to the Hartford City Council for a vote on Monday, Dec. 11, that is seeking approval to apply for assistance from the board.

As part of the recently approved budget, the board has $20 million in contract assistance and $28 million in restructuring funds that can be used to help extremely distressed municipalities.

The board’s next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2018. They expect to meet the first and third Thursdays of each month.