ARZENO: BET Democrats Offer Competent Fiscal Management

Submitted by Hector E Arzeno, Greenwich

Here are some quick questions to consider when voting for the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) (Greenwich’s Finance Board) in the Nov 2 election:

Which party has the best record on keeping taxes low?
Which party has an enviable track record in Town investment management?
Which party has shown the most savviness about Town real estate?
Which party is prudently evaluating long term infrastructure needs?

If your answer is “the Democrats, of course,” you win the prize and here’s why:

When the Democrats were in control of the BET from 2017-2019, the BET produced an average mill rate increase of only 1.375% per annum compared to an average of 2.94% p.a. over the preceding 10 years under Republican control.

While it is true that in the past two years the Republicans have put the Town on a starvation diet, drawing down fund balances (the rainy day fund) to minimize taxes artificially and temporarily, such budgets are unsustainable as they reflect spending below the rate of inflation and below increases mandated by labor contract renewals negotiated under Republican Party management.

Speaking of labor contract renewals, we have to look only at the recently-arbitrated Firefighter contract to see a whopping payout with uncapped cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) benefits to workers. This outcome inevitably plants the seeds for higher taxes in the future.

When the BET Democrats were in charge, the Town’s Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) portfolio was diversified to increase yield while reducing risk. This was achieved by including for the first time direct investment in US government bonds, which at the time yielded a greater return while reducing portfolio risk. Democrats also promoted the idea to outsource the management of this portfolio which will produce better risk adjusted returns and an absolute lower level of investment cost.

On the real estate front, BET Democrats led the charge to prevent a giveaway of valuable air rights at Greenwich Plaza. The Republican administration at the time demonstrated poor understanding of the property valuation and were prepared to relinquish this valuable asset for a fraction of its true worth.

From a long-term perspective, maintenance of the Town’s infrastructure is a ticking fiscal time bomb. Republican decisions to shrink the capital tax levy to provide a short-term tax relief bromide, reflects a policy of “DON’T pay as you go,” and if not corrected will yield gaping holes that future taxpayers will have to meet or risk seeing our infrastructure become more and more dilapidated.

So, if you are looking for prudent fiscal management, low taxes and thoughtful consideration of the Town’s future needs, you know which party has the record to produce sound outcomes.

Please join me and vote for the 6 Democratic BET candidates to ensure the tie-breaking vote on key decisions goes to the Democrats on November 2 or before by absentee ballot.