Letter to the editor submitted by Jonathan Perloe
To the Editor, Greenwich Free Press:
Right after the First Selectman LWV debate last week I received campaign emails from both candidates. One talked about the candidate’s experience, platform and values. The other did the same, but went on to fabricate wild accusations about the opponent’s position on fiscal management, claiming it would bring Greenwich to ruin with poverty, diminished home values and skyrocketing property taxes.
Following the usual Republican playbook, Fred Camillo is trying to paint Jill Oberlander as a “tax and spend” liberal. The problem is, Camillo has his facts wrong.
Under Oberlander’s leadership as chair of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, the average mill rate increase has been less than half what it was during the previous decade, when Republicans controlled the BET. This year, all six Republican members of the BET voted against decreasing taxes.
Camillo talks about the 12 years he’s been in Hartford, but doesn’t seem familiar with why Hartford is in fiscal distress, claiming it’s caused by the city’s use of long-term bond financing. Unfortunately for Hartford, it is not blessed with the extreme affluence of Greenwich; we have a median household income 3x higher and a poverty rate one-fourth of Hartford. Hartford also bears the extreme burden of having nearly 60 percent of its real estate exempt from property tax owing to the concentration of tax-exempt institutions, including Camillo’s employer, the State of Connecticut. It’s disingenuous to compare the outlook for Greenwich, if it were to judiciously use long-term financing, to Hartford.
Camillo claims that Oberlander will “impose” long-term debt on the town. Considering Greenwich is home to some of the most sophisticated financiers on the planet, local Republican’s extreme aversion to long-term debt is mystifying. The fact is; the vast majority of municipalities use long-term debt. They do so for capital projects with long life spans like schools because it doesn’t make sense to force current residents to pick up the entire cost of infrastructure that will be used by future residents for years to come.
Camillo’s lack of understanding about municipal financing—for a town with a nearly half-billion dollar budget—is concerning. He’s wrong about the impact of long-term financing. All else being equal, longer term financing doesn’t increase current tax rates, it lowers them because payments are extended over the lifetime of the asset, measured in decades.
Moreover, the First Selectman neither sets tax rates nor determines how the budget is financed, another reason Camillo’s assertion that taxes will be much higher under Oberlander has no basis in fact.
Fred Camillo’s doomsday predictions about his opponent are just the usual Republican tactic to distract voters from the facts. Jill Oberlander’s fiscal prudence as chair of the BET for the past two years speaks for itself. That’s just one reason she has my vote for First Selectman.