If you heard stories of raw sewage overflowing into first grade classrooms, students with crutches carried up and down flights of stairs to get to their classes, or special education classes conducted in broom closets, you would not likely think of Greenwich.
But these actual conditions are the inevitable outcome of decades of neglect by Republican Town leaders. At his presentation of the FY23-24 budget, First Selectman Fred Camillo continued the tradition of kicking the can down the road and ignoring the substandard conditions in which our students are forced to learn.
In his budget presentation, Camillo inexplicably cut $10 million from the budget submitted by the Board of Education to rebuild Central Middle School (CMS). CMS was condemned after an engineering study, which the Republican-controlled Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) refused to fund, found that the building was “dangerous and unsafe for human occupancy.”
Camillo also delayed the Board of Education’s request to renovate Old Greenwich School, a 121 year old building which is not ADA compliant, does not meet fire codes, lacks modern security and adequate ventilation, and is prone to sewage water flowing into classrooms.
He explained that he was suspending the project for yet another year, because “we can only do one project at a time.” Funding to renovate Julian Curtiss school has also been put off for the last four budget cycles. Funding to begin design work for Riverside School was also dropped, pushing the project beyond the five year capital plan.
Putting “nice to haves” over “need to haves”
Despite Camillo’s “one project at a time” requirement for schools, he included funds for several “nice to haves” like the three year $11 million renovation of Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, a waterfront site that happens to host the Greenwich Town Party, as well as $22 million over the next two years for a new Town ice skating rink. As a candidate in 2019, Camillo explained that investment in school infrastructure is not a priority because “buildings don’t teach.”
Camillo’s ability to plan adequately for capital and operational needs was constrained by the BET’s budget guidelines, passed on a party-line Republican vote, which imposed unrealistic limits on funds available for infrastructure and operations.
The Republican-controlled BET failed to take advantage of long-term financing when interest rates were at record lows and when construction costs were lower, preferring an outdated “pay-as-you-go” approach. We are now paying for those decisions through higher cost of borrowing, increased construction costs due to inflation, and projects being pushed back year after year due to the added cost, which will be reflected in higher taxes.
After the budget presentation, twenty parents, principals, teachers, and PTA members urged the BET to restore full funding for our schools. Frances Wu Nobay, president of the PTA Council said, “The Town of Greenwich has not made significant capital investments in these schools in years, decades in some cases. This 2.9% [in the operating budget] should not be seen as an increase. It should be seen for what it is. A net reduction. If we continue these bare-bone budgets, it’s the children who lose.”
Democratic members of the BET hope to restore restore the funding for Old Greenwich School that was cut in the First Selectman’s budget, and to increase the funding for Central Middle School so that the plan for this building, which was approved unanimously by the members of the Board of Education, can proceed.
What you can do.
Budget season has kicked off. It’s important to participate to make sure that projects you care about get funded. Find the BET budget calendar and documents here, and contact BET members about your priorities.
But most importantly, don’t forget to vote for the Democratic candidate for First Selectman and all six Democrats for the BET on November 7. It’s time for responsible fiscal management.
U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal this week reintroduced the Handgun Permit to Purchase Act, a federal grant program to incentivize state and local governments to enact laws requiring individuals to obtain a license from law enforcement before purchasing a handgun.
Licensing, or permit-to-purchase laws, are effective, common-sense policies to reduce gun violence. According to research conducted by the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy, these laws are statistically proven to reduce firearm homicides and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
State Representatives approve police contract with pay increases
Representatives Rachel Khanna, Steve Meskers and Hector Arzeno, joined fellow legislators to overwhelmingly approve a four-year contract that provides annual pay raises for state troopers, a measure that is expected to improve the hiring and retention of police officers in a time of declining enrollment.
For Your Calendar
“CT’s Plan for Economic Growth.” The League of Women Voters hosts David Lehman, former Senior Economic Advisor to Governor Lamont and Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Find out what strategy and steps are being pursued to attract and retain businesses in Connecticut, and keep and employ talented graduates of local universities at Connecticut companies and startups. Tuesday, February 7, 7:00-8:00 p.m. Register for this online event here.
“What to do in the event of an active shooter.” The Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich hosts Greenwich Officers Keith Hirsch and Daniel Paladino. Both officers have been educated in specialty classes all over the country, becoming certified in Threat Assessment, Crime Prevention, and Crime Analysis. Attendees will learn what is the first action to take, how to anticipate a shooter, what defense mechanisms ordinary people have, how to case out a room to be prepared, and other proven actions to deflect and even overcome a shooter. Wednesday, February 8, 11:00 am. First Presbyterian Church, 37 Lafayette Place, or watch streaming webinar on https://bit.ly/30IBj21
Come meet fellow Democrats and learn how you can get involved at the next meeting of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee. Greenwich Town Hall. Thursday, February 16, 7:30 p.m.
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