CAMILLO: Setting the Record Straight on Greenwich Schools Capital Budget and Old Greenwich School

Submitted by Fred Camillo, First Selectman, Town of Greenwich

To the editor,

The recent emails and social media postings ( memes included ) regarding the Board of Estimate & Taxation ( BET ) guidelines for the capital budget and Old Greenwich School ( OGS ) is the reason for this letter. 

The Board of Education ( BOE ) sent over a capital budget that was well over the $100 million BET capital guideline. That amount would have totally erased every Town project that has been vetted and proven to be a need. Central Middle School ( CMS ) was the first school in the queue, and that was widely known having been discussed at many public meetings over the past year. 

Even without OGS , I presented a Capital Budget request of $127 million. OGS was and is number two on the list, and very deserving of its high ranking. Just having toured it ( I am familiar with the school, but really appreciated the walk through that highlighted the needs ), I am 100% in support of this being the main project for Fiscal Year ’25 ( CMS being the first in Fiscal Year ’24 ). ADA compliance and inclusion as well as flooding issues need to be addressed.

I would like to point out that in regard to OGS, no other option was presented. None. So, throwing both projects out there was not realistic, and that was well known. I would also note that while the OGS Building Committee is moving quickly, they aren’t in a position to provide an accurate budget request for the FY24 Budget cycle.

The current number in the capital plan is stale by a couple of years.  Right after the budget presentation, the OGS Building Committee Chairman reached out to me with his concerns and asked for $1.1 million to be included for  FY ’24 so the project would not experience any delays. This would assure that the project stays on schedule. That is a reasonable request, one that I would have included in FY “24 had that option been offered. 

I want to thank the parents who took the time to reach out. That is always welcome and very much appreciated. The municipal budget process can be frustrating, and I can understand why some parents are contacting us and trying to  figure out why their school is not first in the queue, or why we even have to prioritize.

That reaction is understandable and I hope this letter can help clarify the issue at hand here concerning the capital budget proposal as it pertains to OGS. 

I also would like to state that I am disappointed in the tone of some of the emails and social media postings. Grown adults posting memes is beyond silly, especially when they omit a significant part of the story. Some even mentioned that they just moved to town and were “embarrassed”. Well, I say to them, there is no need to feel ” embarrassed ” by a town that spends more per student than any other town in the state, and a town that prides itself on its civic involvement, wonderful services, and responsive government. I hope that in the future, differing opinions on budget proposals (or anything else) could be responded to in a more respectful fashion. Greenwich prides itself on that, too. 

Sadly, some have even begun the politicization process with threats regarding the upcoming November elections. Let me be clear. Save the threats as we don’t run town government by responding to political threats. A reasonable alternative argument/position would be the productive avenue to travel down, which most of our residents do, and many did here. I thank you and look forward to speaking with you more in the future.

 Specific to OGS, I will work with our BET to make sure no delay is experienced, but I also ask that any person who is demanding that we fund everything on the capital budget proposal list show be respectful to these volunteers who put in untold hours so that our town can continue to be the envy of every other town in the state and region.

Thanks again to all the town departments that worked hard on these proposals throughout the process, and thanks to all those hard-working volunteers who demonstrate civic pride on a daily basis, year in, and year out, and thanks to all who care enough to reach out. We are blessed to count you all as friends, neighbors, employees, and residents.