GROUP LETTER: Why We’ll Vote to Reject the Budget

Submitted by (see list of 38 RTM members below)

We, the undersigned members of the RTM, will vote on Monday to REJECT the highly partisan, shamefully inadequate 2021-2022 Greenwich Town budget proposed by the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET). Our NO vote is largely symbolic – we have been informed that even if the RTM fails to approve the budget, it still goes into effect – but we feel it is important to protest an unfair process.

Here is how it works – the BET presented a budget to the RTM for approval that many feel inadequately funds critical infrastructure and provides no long-term planning for future spending requirements, but the RTM can only reduce or cut line items. With no ability to propose additional spending measures, the RTM has no way to correct these deficiencies. Nor can it direct how any savings it generates should be used.

The RTM also has no way to prevent the budget from passing. In a letter circulated to RTM members prior to the budget review, it was noted that, “If the RTM fails to adopt a budget by May 15, the Charter provides that the budget as recommended by the BET takes effect for the next fiscal year.” In other words, if the RTM approves the BET budget, it passes, and if a majority of the RTM votes NO or ABSTAINS, the BET budget still goes into effect. Thus, in the eyes of many RTM members, except for cutting even more spending, the RTM becomes
nothing more than a rubber stamp for what we feel is a short-sighted, underfunded budget.

We have a system that is asymmetric – it works in only one direction. If the proposed budget is too “fat,” the RTM can make cuts, but if the budget is too “skinny,” the RTM cannot do anything except make it even skinnier. And this is precisely the point – the BET has taken advantage of this asymmetry by proposing underfunded budgets to the RTM for years, preventing it from acting as a true forum for debate about the financial future of our town. We find it nonsensical that the six individual GOP members of the BET (the six Democratic members of the BET voted to REJECT this budget) were able to force an unpopular budget through the system, with a
single tie-breaking vote. The GOP-majority led BET has pushed a partisan budget but the challenges facing our town are not partisan in nature.

We note that even as Greenwich is expected to receive tens of millions of dollars in federal and state aid as a result of pandemic related relief efforts, the BET budget makes drastic cuts to appropriations requested by the Board of Education that are widely supported by town residents and RTM members, and which follow the school district’s fifteen-year Facilities Master Plan that was adopted in 2018. It also does not fund the fire station recommended by an expert study, reduces, and defers funding for critical capital projects and even ignores a modest request for a popular bike path study. At the same time, the BET appropriates $21 million dollars of spending power for the purpose of lowering taxes.

As members of the RTM, we do not feel that this is the right direction for our town and we are alarmed by the lack of democratic process in making these determinations. We believe that a fully funded budget should be presented to the RTM and that its members should be able to debate and decide on spending needs versus tax cuts, giving residents a chance to have their voices represented. We believe the RTM should have a say in setting aside funding for needed capital projects and setting goals for the financial future of our town.

In sum, the BET has for years been proposing underfunded budgets that ignore the views of an increasing number of residents and that fail to meet the long-term investment needs of our town. Whether the RTM votes to approve or reject it, that budget still goes into effect. This is a ludicrous way to run our finances. Here is what you can do. First, get educated. We are writing this letter to inform our constituents about the issues at hand. Please reach out to any of us to learn more. Second, run for the RTM. Help to move our town in a more positive direction. Third, the GOP members of the BET have let you down. Come November, when it is time to cast your ballot, remember that they denied spending to repair a public school with a collapsed ceiling, refused to fund a fire station that is critical for public safety, and delayed funding to remediate public buildings that are 50-60 years old. Is that the kind of leadership you want for our town?

● Ali Ghiorse D1
● Ryan Oca D1
● Mary Ellen Markowitz D2
● Judd Cohen D3
● Steven Rubin D3
● Javier Aleman D4
● Lucy von Brachel D4
● Lucy Krasnor D5
● Hale McSharry D5
● Joan Thakor D5
● Candace Garthwaite D6
● Monica Prihoda D6
● David Snyder D6
● Scott Kalb D7
● Elizabeth Perry D7
● Mike Warner D7
● Hector Arzeno D8
● Dana Gordon D8
● Janet McMahon D8
● Cheryl Moss D8
● Caryn Rosenbaum D8
● Alison Soler D8
● Phyllis Alexander D9
● Melissa Evans D9
● Joanne Steinhart D9
● Mareta Hamre D10
● Sara Kessler D10
● Rachel Khanna D10
● Diana Singer D10
● Louisa Stone D10
● Nancy Marshall D10
● Joanna Swomley D10
● Sophie Veronis D10
● Svetlana Wasserman D10
● Mary Connolly Flynn D12
● Mary Kelly D12
● Aaron Leonard D12
● Andrew Winston D12