Submitted by First Selectman Peter Tesei, December 18, 2018 in response to letter to the editor from Mike Warner
It is rather curious that a former RTM Finance Committee Chair who had a reputation for using solid facts and reasoning would author such a trite and mythical letter regarding the 2019-2020 Capital Budget Process.
Warner Myth 1 – Timing of the CIP Public Hearing
The Capital Improvement Program and budget are by Town Charter, the responsibilities of the First Selectman’s office to develop. The fact there are non-charter required public hearings demonstrates the commitment to provide opportunity for citizen engagement into the budget development process. The timing of this year’s hearing (Dec. 18, 2018 at 6 p.m.) is consistent with the timing for the last three years of this hearing (Dec. 21, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.; Dec. 19, 2016 at 6 p.m., Dec. 18, 2017 at 6 p.m. All were held in the Cone Room.) And the Greenwich Board of Education is holding its decision meeting on their entire proposed budget of $164.2 million this Thursday, December 20 th . Does Mr. Warner think the BoE should delay this meeting?
Warner Myth 2 – Public Schools are “deplorable”.
Mr. Warner states our schools are “deplorable”. Remember the last time a politician used that word?
During the past 15 years, The Town has rebuilt three of our 11 elementary schools and added a first class performing arts center at our singular flagship High School. In addition, the Town has invested nearly $300 million on maintenance and improvements to all school buildings. Perhaps Mr. Warner is confusing Greenwich for Stamford? Recently, Greenwich conducted a citizen satisfaction survey our residents whereby response showed increasing satisfaction with the public education system over the 2014 and 2016 survey results.
Warner Myth 3 – Gold Coast comparisons and extending the terms on the Town Credit Card
Greenwich continues to enjoy a Triple A bond rating because of its responsible debt policy. Mr. Warner suggests that we ‘catch up to our Gold Coast competition.’ I certainly hope that he is not suggesting that Greenwich abandon its caps on the budget and mill rate increases and follow the trail used by Stamford. Financial prudence – through a collaborative, thoughtful effort on all levels of Town government – has allowed Greenwich residents the ability to pay the lowest mill rate in the State $11 mills. Stamford’s mill rate is $30; $16 in Darien; $30-plus in Norwalk, and $16 in Westport. I find it highly unlikely that Greenwich residents want higher taxes to match what their neighbors pay in Fairfield County.
Greenwich is ranked by SafeWise as the safest community in which to raise a family. It is also ranked by Smart Asset as the top place to retire in Connecticut. It was ranked as one of the best places to live in Connecticut by niche.com. And just two months ago, SafeHome.org named Greenwich as the safest and most livable community in the country.
None of these national recognitions would have been possible if it weren’t for the foresight and dedication of the administration to drive the efforts across all departments of the Town government to provide the best services possible to meet the needs of our residents with low, modest and predictable taxes.
There have been 11 budgets developed, presented, deliberated and adopted by the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Representative Town Meeting during my tenure and all have involved extensive civic engagement and collaboration. It is surprising that Mr. Warner does not recall such engagement and collaboration during his RTM tenure (2004 – 2017) and his service on the Finance Committee.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Warner has flagrant disregard of the facts surrounding the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center. The roof does not leak – it was replaced in 2011 – 2012 as was the gymnasium ceiling and the lighting system.
Mr. Warner suggests that there is a ‘need for a bigger boat,’ maybe that is because he missed the boat when it comes to discerning fact from fiction.
Mike Warner’s letter to the editor: