By Stephen Selbst. Stephen is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation. He also serves on the Old Greenwich School Building Committee. Reprinted from Greenwich Free Press.
Republicans on the Board of Estimate and Taxation claim they support the public schools. But their votes last week to delay the Old Greenwich School renovation prove otherwise. This is the sixth year since the schools master facilities plan passed, and once more they have not approved a single dollar allowing shovels to hit the ground.
This time, it appears that Republicans on the BET are the only people who do not want the Old Greenwich School construction to begin.
- The nine member bipartisan Old Greenwich School building committee (OGSBC) voted unanimously to approve the schematic and cost estimates for construction, to meet state reimbursement deadlines so construction could begin by next summer.
- The bipartisan Board of Education approved the plans unanimously.
- The community has beseeched the BET for months to let the project move forward.
Yet when it came to action, the Republicans on the BET chose inaction. Rather than ask questions and discuss, they read prepared remarks that accused the bipartisan building committee, the Board of Education, and the PTAs of “political machinations.” This is not leadership. It hurts students, it ignores our community and it costs taxpayers money.
Delay costs us more.
Failing to apply for state reimbursement by the June 30 deadline jeopardizes $6 million in state funding to offset the estimated $40 million construction costs. The Republican BET vote to delay leaves open two options: either we wait until next year to apply, which the OGSBC estimates will add $3 million in inflationary costs to the project. Or we hope our state representatives can magically bump us up in the queue for reimbursement despite having missed the deadline to apply.
Delay hurts our children.
The problems at Old Greenwich School are serious: the building is not ADA-compliant, it experiences periodic sewage backups into classrooms, it lacks building-wide HVAC and sprinkler systems and security protection. The 2018 Greenwich Schools master plan identified the renovation of Old Greenwich School as a top priority. Yet, five years later, the Republican BET members say they need more time for study.
Why are BET Republicans delaying?
The Republican majority on the BET insisted that the Old Greenwich School renovation had not been adequately vetted. They insist that the BOE should look into building a new school, which they propose to be 25% smaller. This is the same tactic they used to delay the Central Middle School project, a dynamic that impedes effective Town government and oversteps the BET’s authority.
The truth is that the BOE had looked into building a new school at the start of the project and the OGSBC researched the costs. What they found was this:
- The Old Greenwich community does not want a new school. At numerous hearings, residents strongly favored keeping the existing school, which is beloved in Old Greenwich.
- A new school would cost taxpayers more. The OGSBC found that building a new school from scratch would cost $70 – $80 million, a cost at least $25 million more than the approved plans to renovate.
What does it say about our commitment to our children and our community if the Republican members of our finance board will only fund our schools if we make them smaller?
- They gutted funding for Julian Curtiss School;
- They delayed funding for Central Middle School and are demanding the school be downsized;
- They had the chance to make the right decision last week for OGS, and they failed spectacularly.
Their irresponsible “one school at a time” building policy has turned into a no-school at a time reality.
BET Democrats believe it is time for smarter municipal capital planning processes that allow us to take care of our town’s most important assets–our children–while keeping our taxes low. Our voting record supports that.
Signing ceremony for Healthcare Affordability law, June 27.
State lawmakers passed and Governor Lamont signed into law an act to reduce health care costs for CT patients. The law is multi-pronged and includes creation of regional consortiums to pool prescription drug purchasing power, establishes greater transparency about drug cost increases, prohibits charging facility fees for some routine practices performed at hospitals, and other measures.
On signing, Governor Lamont said, “The quality of Connecticut’s health care system is among the best in the nation, however rising costs make accessing health coverage a barrier for far too many people. Our administration is focused on addressing the policies and cost drivers that factor into these prices.”
For your calendar
July 1 and 5
Meet old friends and make new ones at our monthly coffees on Saturday, July 1 and Wednesday, July 5 at 10:00 a.m. at Coffee for Good, 48 Maple Avenue
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|Volume 1, Number 51 • June 29, 2023|
|Paid for by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.|
|Greenwich Democratic Town Committee P.O. Box 126 Greenwich, CT 06836|