Letter to the editor from Nerlyn Pierson, Janet McMahon and Lindsey Fahey
Based on the discussions at the BET Budget Workshop on Thursday morning, it seems that the Republicans are aiming to reduce the Board of Education (BOE) budget by $3 million, and the Democrats are looking to propose a $700,000 cut. In addition, the BET proposes/intends to slash some capital projects to the school district. Why? Because keeping the mill rate flat takes primacy over everything else.
The idea that this is a hard choice between the BOE budget and a flat mill rate and that you can’t have both with our current Town budget and cash reserves is patently false.
The town’s total cash reserve should be between $72-76 million at the end of this fiscal year (June 30). To put that in context, this cash reserve totals approximately 17% of the town’s operating budget. These are the town’s “rainy day” funds.
You’ll hear BET members say that the fund balance to operating expenses ratio is necessary for the rating agencies. That’s true, but the rating agencies only require an 11% to 12% ratio. As noted above, we have a ratio in excess of 17%, far above what we need to maintain for the rating agencies.
In reality, the BET is hoarding OUR taxpayer dollars and patting themselves on the back for their high rating agencies metrics, while ignoring our community’s educational needs.
What are the potential impacts of a $3 million cut to the BOE budget? Class sizes could rise. Up to 30 teachers and/or staff could lose their jobs. Essential programs (including special education, advanced learning) for students and for teachers could be cut. At a time when our school district needs enhanced flexibility to adjust to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential second wave this fall as warned by several prominent health experts, a cut to the BOE budget at this moment in time is extremely shortsighted.
We have tens of millions of dollars in cash that are not only NOT being used, but are also depreciating in real terms every year, earning virtually nothing in interest income when such funds can be put to critical use today.
Remember, these are OUR hard-earned taxpayer dollars that have been set aside just for “rainy day” situations like the one we are experiencing today.
If NOW is not the time to use these funds, then when is the right time? The BET is more than able to fund the BOE budget and its capital projects while keeping that precious mill rate flat.
Nerlyn Pierson, Greenwich
Janet McMahon, Cos Cob
Lindsey Fahey, Riverside