What’s on the budget chopping block?

Newsletter Volume 2 • Number 42

Weekly Newsletter Delivery

It’s that time of year! The Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) will be making their final decisions on the proposed 2024-25 town budget on March 27th.

Under Republican control, the BET usually makes painful cuts to meet budgetary “guidelines,” which they treat as a ceiling, regardless of the need.

You’ll have one last chance to advocate in person for what’s important to you at the Public Hearing on March 25th at 7 pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room (101 Field Point Road). You can also submit written comments or e-mail the BET members: bet@greenwichct.org.

Here are some key items to watch:

GPS says their budget is driven by increases in labor contract obligations, as well as special education, transportation, and the rising cost of utilities. As it stands, the proposed operating budget is above the benchmark set by the BET Republican caucus, so something’s gotta give. Parents bristled when the Board of Education adopted staffing cuts in January to get closer to the benchmark and were relieved when the Board did not adopt reductions to physical education, foreign language or the advanced learning program (ALP).

The Republican chair of the BET Budget Committee says there is an unwritten rule that the fire department only gets one new fire truck per budget cycle. Meanwhile, Republicans on the BET haven’t even lived up to that, so our fire fleet is aging despite the possibility of stricter new OSHA rules about how long equipment can be in service. Notably, our town was temporarily left without an operable ladder truck one weekend last fall due to a confluence of repair needs. This year, the fire chief is asking to replace two geriatric pumper trucks, which we may not even receive for years, due to a multi-year order backlog.

The top money-saving recommendation by the town’s Energy Management and Advisory Committee this year is to hire an energy specialist to monitor and cut back on the town’s energy use. First Selectman Fred Camillo requested funding for the post in his budget.The Sustainability Coordinator would help prepare a climate action plan, save the town money by reducing energy consumption, and identify state and federal funding for initiatives. A dedicated hire with expertise could move the town beyond the Republican BET chair’s myopic vision that replacing light bulbs with LEDs (which has already been done) is the only fix. Unfortunately, posturing from BET Republicans suggests this hire will be nixed.

The principal of Old Greenwich School (OGS) has testified for seven years straight about the need to prioritize the 122-year-old school’s renovation. The project would stop sewage from flooding into the building, improve air quality, create a secure front entrance, and comply with ADA and fire safety regulations. According to a recent building committee report, failure to fund OGS now would lead to millions in cost escalations and reopen an Office of Civil Rights case about discrimination due to lack of ADA accessibility. Julian Curtiss and Riverside Elementary Schools have also been asking for fixes to undersized spaces and inadequate ADA accessibility. And Greenwich High needs better cell service, which is a safety issue.

Our Department of Public Works is looking for dollars, which would be 80% reimbursable through a federal grant, to seek community input and develop a comprehensive Traffic Safety Action Plan. Separately, the Republican chair of the BET Budget Committee last month proposed reducing funding for federally-mandated sidewalk ADA improvements on Greenwich Avenue. A project to extend sidewalks in Old Greenwich down Shore Road to Tod’s Point did not get a nod from the BET Budget Committee Republicans due to a desire to see more design details. And we found out there’s no new money in the town budget to jumpstart the Glenville Corridor Traffic Improvement Project. But, as previously reported, our Democratic state house delegation is actively working on funding from the CT Department of Transportation to move that Glenville safety initiative forward.

Give the new BET Democratic Caucus accounts a follow! For official news and updates on the town budget, follow these accounts on Instagram and Facebook.

CT jobs recover from pandemic

There’s something to celebrate in the latest state jobs report: in 2023, Connecticut recouped the total number of jobs lost during the pandemic (about 289,000 by 2020) and has since grown even more. “The continued growth of jobs in Connecticut, particularly among private sector employers, is positive news for our economy, but we cannot afford to take our foot off the gas,” Governor Lamont said. “When I speak with business leaders, they repeatedly tell me that they have job openings, but they need workers to fill them.”

Himes votes no on TikTok bill

Last Wednesday’s vote on whether to force a sale of TikTok was the rare occasion in Congress when bipartisanship prevailed. The bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly, 352 – 65, could ban TikTok in the US due to national security concerns, unless its Chinese parent company spins it off to a US concern. Our Congressman Jim Himes, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, joined 49 Democrats and 15 Republicans in voting no. Himes cited concerns about protecting freedom of expression. In a comment on X, he explained, “…one of the key differences between us and those adversaries is the fact that they shut down newspapers, broadcast stations, and social media platforms. We do not.” The bill now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future.

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.

Greek Independence Day, Flag raising at noon. Front steps of Town Hall

Volume 2, Number 42 • March 21, 2024
Paid for by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.
Greenwich Democratic Town Committee P.O. Box 126 Greenwich, CT 06836