By Leslie Moriarty and Laura Erickson
Democratic members of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) Budget Committee
When crafting our town and schools budget, responsible planners should consider what’s in the best interests of taxpayers, plus what will help our children and families thrive. But once again Republicans on the BET Budget Committee backed into a bare-bones plan without any concern for what residents want or the town needs.
As Democrats on the BET Budget Committee, we attempted to amend it during our deliberations, but ultimately could not vote in favor, for three key reasons:
- Major school building projects, critical for our community, real-estate values and families with children, are underfunded or postponed indefinitely.
Old Greenwich School funding. As the budget stands, the Old Greenwich School (OGS) Building Committee will run out of money halfway through its planning work this year. We suggested the BET fund the committee so it can finish that, start construction, and apply for state grants. Our Republican colleagues rejected that. In turn, we rejected their short-sighted patch-work proposal.
Central Middle School funding. Majority Republicans are seeking to reduce Central Middle School’s construction budget by another $7.7 million, after the First Selectman already cut the budget by $10 million. We do not agree with these cuts because there’s no rationale beyond Republicans’ desire to slash the construction budget further.
Riverside School funding. We tried and failed to restore $150,000 that had been cut for Riverside School renovations, which kicks the start of this essential project down the road one more year.
- Another 25 essential items, from fire department apparatus to accommodations for people with disabilities, are in danger of elimination by the full BET, after Budget Committee Republicans proposed these cuts.
• To meet the Republican BET’s guidelines, the First Selectman trimmed the budget’s 5-year capital plan by almost thirty percent, after carefully prioritizing the entire list. But despite that detailed analysis, Republicans on the Budget Committee suggested eliminating or deferring another 25 projects, amounting to about $9 million.
• Some cuts impact community safety, such as training equipment, gear for the police department, a much-needed fire engine, and reduced support for ADA compliance on town sidewalks. Others affect quality of life: pickleball courts, and a number of highway and building maintenance projects, once again postponed.
- BET Republicans continue to ignore long term planning, in favor of deferring and underfunding projects that Greenwich residents need.
• The lack of support for addressing long deferred investment in our town’s infrastructure and school facilities results in higher costs, increased risks, and dissatisfied residents.
• The Democratic BET members have analyzed the numbers, and there is a financially responsible way to provide our children with new or updated schools and playing fields more quickly. The delays of the past have cost us dearly. We missed opportunities to borrow at lower interest rates and project costs have risen after years of deferring the work. We should not keep making these mistakes.
The BET’s job is to manage the budget. Instead the budget is managing us. False choices, failed policies and poor planning are costing us money, safety and much-needed services.
We can’t continue to kick the can down the road. As a matter of fairness, basic risk management and good governance, our town deserves better.
The next step for the budget is action by the full BET. We will continue engaging with all BET members to achieve our shared goals of maintaining Greenwich’s reputation as a desirable community. But to do that, we need to provide the services and amenities families living here deserve.
The BET will be holding a public hearing on March 29th at
7 pm. We welcome your input.
Democrats march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade
Greenwich Democrats reveled at the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday.
You know you want one…
Last week Governor Lamont toured Bright Feeds facility as an example of a possible solution to CT’s waste crisis. Bright Feeds recycles unwanted packaged or prepared food from industrial facilities and converts it into animal feed for livestock. Greenwich resident Scott Kalb is chairman of Bright Feeds. Learn more here.
A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Hector Arzeno to require a half credit of instruction in financial literacy and personal financial management as a requirement for high school graduation won overwhelming support in the Education Committee, 39-2 in favor.
A bill introduced by Rep. Rachel Khanna to address worker deficits in the fields of teaching and healthcare has been voted out of committee. Both industries are facing severe shortages after many teachers and healthcare workers left their jobs in response to the pressures of the pandemic. The bill, HB5441, provides incentives to attract and retain nursing and teaching students.
Editorial that caught our eye
Risk from St.Roch use of Hamilton Avenue Fields is unjustified. Mark Kordick raises concerns about breaches of ethics rules and the possibility of further damage to the Hamilton Avenue Fields from use for the St. Roch Festival. “After last year’s event, large portions of the field were left unusable to students until nearly Thanksgiving….School property is held in trust by the Board of Education to provide for the education of students. The for-profit event proposed to be conducted on the field has no rational relationship to the school, no educational value and benefits the student population in absolutely no way whatsoever.”
For your calendar
Drop in for coffee and conversation with fellow Democrats, and learn how you can get involved in our efforts to preserve democracy. Saturday, April 1 at 10:00 a.m. and Wednesday, April 5 at 10:00 a.m. at Coffee for Good.
Come crush it with us at this evening of ping-pong, food, drinks and friends! Bring a friend, or two.
April 1: Rethink Waste Fair.
Join Waste Free Greenwich for an engaging, family friendly event to explore ways to rethink waste. Activities include eco-friendly vendors, composting and cooking demos, arts and crafts projects, book exchange, interactive exhibits and more.
At noon, First Selectman Camillo will issue an Earth Day Proclamation, and the Greenwich Sustainability Committee will announce the recipients of its newly established Sustainability Award.
April 1, 11:00 am -3:00 p.m., Christ Church Parish Hall.
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