A lot to like in town’s proposed budget

Newsletter Volume 2 • Number 35

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There’s a lot to like in the town’s proposed municipal budget

Key traffic and schools projects prioritized. But will the First Selectman use his bully pulpit to defend them?

Responding to residents’ evident concern about unfriendly streets and crumbling schools, First Selectman Fred Camillo proposed a budget that also reflected the priorities Democratic candidates campaigned on in the municipal election: pedestrian safety, better traffic flow, climate action, and investment in safe and modern school buildings.

The $505 million operating and capital plan, which also includes the Board of Education’s budget, checked off long-delayed or ignored initiatives:

For traffic

  • A town-wide study aimed at developing a traffic safety and transportation plan for cars, pedestrians and cyclists
  • Smart traffic signals to improve traffic flow on Rte. 1
  • A multi-year pedestrian crosswalk upgrade with lights
  • Improvements to sidewalk and pedestrian access on streets such as those in Glenville and on Shore Road.

For schools

  • $43 million to renovate Old Greenwich School, which the First Selectman and BET Republicans deferred last year. (The delay cost taxpayers $4 million, as prices rose)
  • $3.2 million to renovate Julian Curtiss School, and $150,000 to develop education specs for renovating Riverside School. (Both projects have been on hold for 6 years since the BOE identified them as priorities, because of our restrictive bonding policies)
  • $1.8 million which begins to bring a number of schools up to disability code (but defers $2 million more until later years)

Staffing to address student growth, climate, and code enforcement

The schools’ proposed operating budget increased due to contractual costs such as salaries, the growing number of students eligible for special education, and increases in the pre-K population. Kindergarten this year was 94 students above projections.

Town Hall requested two hires: one to oversee sustainability, coastal resiliency, and energy management, and a second for code enforcement, to improve quality of life by making sure that rules on zoning, noise and nuisances are respected.

Notably absent from the budget was any funding for affordable housing to help the town meet state mandates. That is the kind of initiative that would “stop the high rises,” the leading campaign promise of the Republican candidates in the municipal election.  

Now comes the politics: The First Selectman must lead

Despite the clear need for many of these initiatives after decades of delay and deferral, passage by the town’s finance board is not certain. The budget exceeds spending guidelines that the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) approved before the recent election, which Republicans on the BET consider to be spending caps. But though Republicans narrowly won the tie-breaking vote, an internal leadership dispute resulted in Democrats deciding who would chair the board. So how the BET will swing is not clear.

This is where Fred Camillo could use his considerable sway to make a positive difference. He won in November with a commanding 60% of the vote. Now is a good time to use his bully pulpit, for once, to bring about the change he claims he wants to see.

Bet budget hearings next week

Meetings can be watched on Greenwich Community Television Channels 24 (Verizon), 79 (Optimum), GCTV on YouTube, or in person at the Town Hall Meeting Room (101 Field Point Road).

Did we get a hint in August 2022 of what’s to come this presidential election year in Greenwich?

Greenwich Time Columnist David Rafferty raises a fair warning in his January 26 opinion piece: “In 2024 as we watch supposedly ‘sensible’ Republicans across the country morph back into MAGA, don’t think it can’t happen here.”

Consider, our state senator, Ryan Fazio. Fazio jumped in a MAGA clown car for the Project Veritas circus in late August 2022, bolstering a wild narrative that our schools are indoctrinating our children. “It confirms some of our worst fears about many of our schools,” Fazio declared.After multiple investigations proved this actually was a witch hunt, where are the apologies from Fazio and other Republicans who, as Rafferty describes, participated in “harming the reputation of the town and its schools?” 

James O’Keefe, Project Veritas founder speaks at press rally outside Cos Cob School, ringed by Republican legislators. Photo: Leslie Yager

Volume 2, Number 35 • February 1, 2024
Paid for by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.
Greenwich Democratic Town Committee P.O. Box 126 Greenwich, CT 06836