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Shari Cantor

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Party: Democrat

CEP Status:

Website: https://www.facebook.com/ShariCantorWH/

Age: 58

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: West Hartford

Current Job: Mayor of West Hartford

Previous Job: Deputy Mayor of West Hartford

Previous Job:

Education: BA in Accounting, UConn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShariCantorWH/

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Why are you running for this office?
I love my hometown of West Hartford. My husband and I chose to live in West Hartford and raise our four sons here because of West Hartford’s growing diversity, vibrancy, walkability, great schools and strong town management. I am running not only to preserve but also to strengthen our priorities of: • excellent public schools and public safety, • welcoming and inclusive community, • great quality of life, and • tax dollars invested and spent responsibly and prudently. As Mayor, I have and will continue to lead with civility and respect. This is what our community expects and deserves. We need leadership now more than ever that is thoughtful and compassionate while being fiscally responsible. I understand how critical it is to be innovative and creative and to invest in our future. West Hartford’s residents are engaged- we have a vibrant, diverse and inclusive community that needs to be celebrated and treasured so we remain one of the best places to live in the country.
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What is the most pressing local issue facing your community and how would you solve it (within the capacity of the office for which you are running)?
I have been passionate about improving the life of all our residents in our community while being fiscally responsible and prudent. West Hartford has been a shining star in the Hartford region and state and even in our country. There are very few inner-ring suburbs in our nation that are AAA-bond rated by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, are top ranked in the country as a great place to live, that are safe, diverse, and vibrant. I am proud of the investments we have made in public safety, our great public schools, beautiful parks, enriching and active senior centers and libraries, as well as snow plowing, trash, and recycling services and investments in our infrastructure. Our residents expect the best and I try every day to meet their high expectations- that is why West Hartford is one of the top communities in the country to live, work, and play.
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With the state's ongoing budget crisis looming over the election, what are your plans for your community's budget? Is there anything you can do make your town less dependent on revenue from the state?
West Hartford is a AAA-bond rated community by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s because of strong fiscal management and commitment to funding our liabilities. It is always a challenge to balance the priorities of the town- top notch public safety services, great public schools, and a wonderful quality of life, with the antiquated property tax structure that exists in Connecticut. We have worked hard to grow our Grand List in responsible, innovative, and smart ways, all the while focusing on operating more efficiently and effectively. In this particularly challenging year with- as of yet- no state budget, we have made responsible assumptions on how to handle state budget cuts while preserving the priorities that make West Hartford successful. The state-mandated revaluation also made things more complicated for our residents. Of course we must still continue to do more with less while investing in our priorities to maintain our quality of life. This has been a very difficult budget environment. Times are challenging, but I am fighting for West Hartford. I have testified to the Connecticut Legislature to explain that West Hartford is unique, fiscally responsible, and very successful. Our Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant, which represents the largest amount of aid the town receives, has been underfunded for years. Our community should be modeled after and not penalized for our success. Our schools have top rankings in the country, and a per pupil expenditure that is among the lower third in the state- 128 out of 169 towns. In other words, we spend less per pupil than nearly 70% of all schools in the state and perform among the top-ranked districts. And this is for a very diverse school population, in which there are 70 different languages spoken at home, 20% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and special needs students receive high quality special services. I am hopeful that the state will adopt a budget in the very near future. The republican budget, the democratic budget, and the Governor’s revised proposed budget, all are within the range of what we budgeted for ECS this year.
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The legislature has been debating various ideas to allow towns to raise revenue locally through something other than property taxes. If you could ease your residents' property tax burden by adding another method of taxation, is there anything you might consider for your town?
Diversification in revenue is critical; unfortunately, our municipality is primarily reliant on property taxes. I am always considering options for West Hartford that improve the quality of life and ease the tax burden, and diversifying the revenue base is an option, if it can ease property tax burdens. We have to review the impact of change in the tax structure on our businesses, as well as our home owners.
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Are you in favor of regionalizing more services in conjunction with other nearby communities? If so, which ones?
A strong capital region is important not only for our region but also for our state. There are so many wonderful and exciting investments being made in Hartford and all around the city. Our residents contribute to the state and the Hartford region in treasure, time, and energy. We need to continue to be invested in our capital city, our greater Hartford region, and our state. Regionalism and Regionalization are different. We need to view ourselves as being a critical part of the capitol region, as do all of our neighboring communities. As for regionalization, we need to consider whether or not there will be real cost savings and benefits to our residents. We should look for opportunities for combined action only where it is beneficial.
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Should your school district get the same amount of education funding from the state if your district's enrollment is dropping?
In West Hartford, student enrollment is relatively stable, but the demands on our school district have increased. There are increasingly more students who speak a language other than English at home; in fact, there are more than 70 languages other than English spoken in the homes of our school population. They are increases in the number of students who receive free and reduced lunch. And there are increases in the number of students who have special needs. All of this generally means a higher cost per pupil to the district. Education funding should be in proportion with the demands of the school district and the needs of the students, and the numbers of students do not always tell the whole story.
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What's one thing most people don't know about you?
I am a financial geek – I love the Economist! – who does cartwheels all the time.