Submitted by the Democratic members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation
We now have entered an Orwellian world where Republicans on the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) – the Finance Board of the Town – claim they support the Julian Curtiss School modernization project – but vote NO on 88% of the capital request. Parents and the community should not be fooled.
The Board of Ed, as part of a master facilities plan to renovate our outdated and aging school infrastructure, voted to address a number of urgent issues at Julian Curtiss such as lack of compliance with the Americans With Disability Act, security, air quality, as well as undersized common spaces and facility enhancements to modernize the 75 year old school. After cutting this project last year, BET Republicans voted this year to once again cut the design funding. Their direction to the Board of Ed indicated they will consider supporting a fraction of this Title
1 school’s identified facility needs, provided that the BOE yield to the BET Republican’s instruction for scope and size reductions. In addition to causing more delays, rejecting the education specifications needed to bring our schools into the 21 st century and properly support the educational program, the BET Republicans prove they do not prioritize investment for Greenwich’s future. Ignoring the needs of young families and children in this budget sets the stage for repeating this short-sighted approach for the upcoming Old Greenwich and Riverside Schools projects, and the other schools in the Master Plan.
BET Republicans insist on putting the Town and the Schools on a starvation diet. And to what end? They claim expertise to determine “must haves” over “wants.” They claim there are too many projects in the pipeline. So instead of using the opportunity this year to increase funds for the capital plan, they cut or delay projects that are valued by our community. This year’s mill rate declined by 0.79% and the new budget approved by BET Republicans on Tuesday sets a mill rate increase for next year at 0.29%. These budgets are far below the rate of inflation and represent a disinvestment in our schools and our Town. In fact, BET Republicans deployed a whopping $21mllion of rainy day funds to lower taxes rather than investing in the capital plan.
The Republican BET has mastered the art of rejection camouflaged by delay and deferral. Our school facilities do not match the quality of our teachers or educational program. The capital expenditures to bring our schools up to date should be supported and financed now.