Submitted by Bill Finger, Greenwich
AND LET THE RECORD SHOW … Recently the Republican slate of candidates for the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) submitted a letter to the editor attempting to make the case that they are the BET candidates that support modernizing and improving the Greenwich Public Schools. Unfortunately for the Republican candidates there is an actual record of their votes and public statements which contradicts their questionable narrative. Following are just a sampling of their recorded votes while either members of the BET or RTM (votes and statements are recorded in BET and RTM minutes).
On May 9, 2016, when the RTM’s Budget Overview Committee made a motion to make significant across the board cuts to town department budgets, an effort was made at the RTM’s budget meeting to restore the over $699,000 that was cut from the BOE’s operating budget. Republican BET Candidates Ozizmir and Fassuliotis, who were then RTM members in D5 and D7 respectively, voted against restoring those needed funds to the BOE operating budget. At the RTM’s May 8, 2017, budget meeting Mr. Ozizmir and Ms. Fassuliotis once again voted to cut the BOE operating budget.
Keeping with the Republican BET candidates recurring record of cutting BOE budgets, on March 26, 2018, BET members Fassuliotis, Tarkington and Drake voted to delete over $415,000 from the BOE’s operating budget.
During 2020-21 BET budget deliberations the BET Republicans showed their true colors, and their priorities for the Greenwich Public Schools when they voted unilaterally to cut $3.0 million from the BOE’s operating budget, despite being in receipt of a detailed memo from the Superintendent of Schools expressing the potential damaging impacts of the cut. At a special meeting on May 5, 2021, when BET Democrats sought to restore $2.37 million back into the budget BET Republicans, including candidates Fassuliotis, Tarkington and Drake refused to even hear the substance of the motion although over 300 interested community members were on the meeting’s Zoom call.
In their letter to the editor the BET Republican slate claim that “prioritization of our capital projects is most important.” They further state that “HVAC systems and air quality should have the highest priority.” Yet, their voting record contradicts their own statements. On March 26, 2018, Republican BET chairwoman Fassuliotis, Republican BET Budget Committee chairwoman Tarkington and Republican BET member Drake actually voted to reduce BOE capital spending on HVAC systems.
Another example of the fiction demonstrated by the Republican BET slate’s campaign letter is the attempt to portray themselves as having supported major Greenwich public school infrastructure improvements such as the New Lebanon School reconstruction, an improved Cardinal Stadium and the GHS Music Instructional Space and Auditorium (MISA); “Our commitment to investing in Schools has been extensive.” But again, their public voting record proves otherwise.
Regarding the construction of New Lebanon School, current BET chairwoman Fassuliotis spoke out in opposition to the plan for school during a BET public hearing on March 17, 2016. Regarding a new Cardinal Stadium, on May 13, 2017, as a member of RTM D2 Republican candidate Basham voted to cut funding for the stadium project by $500,000.
Trying to suggest that Republicans supported MISA is probably their most egregious attempt at revisionist history.
On May 12, 2008, and May 9, 2011, BET chairwoman Fassuliotis, then as a member of RTM D7, made motions at the RTM to delete a cumulative total of over $18.0 million in funding for MISA. Once again demonstrating her steadfast opposition to MISA, at a BET public hearing on March 19, 2013, Ms. Fassuliotis spoke in direct opposition to the project. But she was not the only Republican candidate opposed to MISA.
On April 24, 2013, BET member Tarkington voted against funding MISA and on April 24, 2013, then as an RTM member, Mr. Drake voted against MISA funding.
As for other school capital projects, on March 26, 2018, BET members Fassuliotis, Tarkington and Drake joined their Republican BET colleagues in voting in support of five Republican motions which attempted to cut a total of $1,475,000 from the BOE’s capital budget. Fortunately, all five motions failed because BET Democrats held the tie-breaking vote in 2018.
More recently, on April 1, 2021, BET members Fassuliotis, Tarkington and Drake voted to delete $102,000 from the BOE’s capital budget request for a structural engineering study to examine the condition of deteriorating structure at Central Middle School. Since that budget cut the Central Middle School building has required regular wall-mounted sensors monitoring for potential shifting of its exterior structural walls. On April 6, 2021, these same three BET candidates also voted to delete $1,300,000 from the BOE’s capital budget needed to commence architectural drawings for a long overdue rebuild of the Julian Curtis School, and rejected the BOE approved Education Specifications for the building. This delay in funding has the effect of delaying a series of needed school renovation projects including Old Greenwich School, Riverside School and Central Middle School.
So, when the Republican candidates for the BET pen carefully crafted campaign letters saying, “We are committed to investing in our schools”, DO NOT be fooled.
Voters may draw their own conclusions, but it is hard to argue that a record of anti-public school votes by the BET Republican candidates do not synch with the picture they are trying to portray as being protectors and supporters of our public schools.
The only slate of BET candidates truly supportive of our public schools, and who actually value prudent prioritization of needed town infrastructure spending is the Democratic BET slate (Erickson, Kreuzer, Moriarty, Ramer, Selbst and Weisbrod).
On November 2nd I ask that you join with me and many other Greenwich voters in voting for the entire six person Democratic BET slate.