If there was any doubt about what Greenwich’s Republican-controlled Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) values, it was obliterated Tuesday, when their members rammed through a town budget that disregards school kids, families, public safety, and smart municipal planning.
On party line votes, Republicans made a mockery of the Board of Education’s (BOE) capital improvement plan adopted five years ago, by once again refusing adequate construction funding for any of Greenwich’s deteriorating schools for at least another year. Since not a single shovel has broken ground, we enter the sixth year of neglect.
Not a single shovel has broken ground in five years. Now, it will be at least six.
BET Republicans offered a pittance in the guise of project money for Old Greenwich School, that provides temporary fixes for flooding and partial ADA compliance— a patchwork that would likely be dismantled if the full renovation project ever takes place, naturally leading to extra costs to taxpayers. Worse, the Republican proposal fails to address the concerns about security, fire safety and ventilation altogether. BET Democrat, Jeff Ramer, noted, “There is a way to address the whole issue. You’re being told that for $34.9 million you can address all the issues. I don’t really know if I understand the logic of the BET pretending to address broad issues when in fact it just pecks at the surface and gives lip service to something that in fact has no substance.”
BET Republicans slashed $18 million from the BOE budget request for Central Middle School and sent the BOE back to the drawing board, ordering it to come up with new plans for a smaller school. This underfunding will force cutting educational space and delay the project start to the summer of 2025. “This is a terrible message,” said Democratic BET member Stephen Selbst. “If we don’t start this school, the community will look at this Board and will say, you’re the reason why.”
BET Republicans also nixed other critical school fixes: installation of an HVAC system to provide clean air for students at Hamilton Avenue school and plans for a renovation study of Riverside school. Does cutting the plumbing and electrical budget for our schools by 67% make sense given the history of flooding incidents in recent years? It does to the Republican BET.
BET Republicans claim they support “one major school project at a time” but their obstruction ensures that there will be zero.
What’s more is this is not fiscally prudent as delay is expensive. These critical building upgrades will just cost millions more as increasing deterioration forces the work to commence in the coming years under higher construction costs. Meantime children and families bear the cost of that delay and partial fixes.
Libraries, elevators, pickleball courts,
ferry dock improvements?
What the BET Republicans value, or don’t, showed in other votes Tuesday night. Our libraries? BET Republicans said no to fixing up the Cos Cob library. Eighty year old elevators at the main Greenwich Library, notorious for lurching and stalling? Deferred for a second year despite escalating costs. Requests by Parks and Rec for pickleball courts, and ferry dock improvements? Also cut or pushed back to some future year.
How about a fire truck?
The Republican BET refused the Fire Department’s request to replace a quarter of a century old fire truck as well as the Police Department’s request for training and response equipment.
And although our town is aware of inadequate fire response coverage in northwest Greenwich, this budget doesn’t even touch on that need.
39 party line votes
All of these decisions—39 in total—were made on a strictly party line vote. Although Democrats and Republicans have six members each on the BET, whichever party received the most votes is awarded a tie-breaking vote. Republican BET members used this tie breaker to ram through their slash & burn budget.
Budgets are statements of values and priorities
BET Democrats have demonstrated their values, through their votes for school funding, for public safety, for ADA compliance, for preventative maintenance, and for fiscal responsibility.
What do you value?
In November you have a choice. If you, too, value the upkeep of our community while maintaining low taxes, vote for BET Democrats. Greenwich deserves better.
For your calendar
Come crush it with us at this evening of ping-pong, food, drinks and friends! Bring a friend, or two.
“Doing nothing cannot be an option when there are more mass shootings than days this year,” CT Senator Chris Murphy said on Face the Nation.
On Monday, CT Senators Murphy and Richard Blumenthal reintroduced legislation to boost the Center for Disease Control’s firearms safety and gun violence prevention research to better understand and address the nation’s ongoing gun violence epidemic, a public health crisis which in the past five years has taken the lives of more than 180,000 people across the United States.
Editorials that caught our eye
Joe Angland, Chair of the Greenwich DTC, writes in the Greenwich Free Press, “There is no town rule that requires funding only one school project at a time. In fact, last year’s capital budget slated construction money for both Central Middle School and OGS. As the town executive, the First Selectman’s job is to propose the budget the town needs and see that budget through. The First Selectman does not answer to the BET, he answers to the voters.”
David Weisbrod, Democratic member of the BET, writes in the Greenwich Free Press. “…no one bothered to inform the police chief that police tech was about to be defunded until a BET Democrat consulted with him moments before the vote took place. Once the chief weighed in, the ill-advised cut was dropped … The people who’ve taken control of our town’s finances aren’t who you think they are. For every narrow escape from arbitrary and short-sighted budget cuts proposed by BET Republicans, there are dozens of other instances where essential needs have been slashed without analysis or justification.”
On the day of Transgender Visibility, Karsten Vagner wondered why the “parents rights” movement is so much more concerned about protecting children from information about LGBTQ identity than from gun violence. He writes in the Greenwich Free Press, “As a parent, as an American, as a proud gay man, my view is that the first parent right that needs to be met is the right to have our kids come home from school every day still alive.”
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