LETTER: Why the temper tantrum over keeping the education budget flat?

Letter to the editor from Frank Salomone, Greenwich

When it comes to grasping the reality of the current economy, the Superintendent of Schools, the PTA and the Democrats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) are tone deaf.

Are they actually opposing a slight reduction in government spending and offering some relief, any relief, to taxpayers in Greenwich? I am glad these folks have unlimited sources of income and can weather the financial storm, which some are predicting will be the worse since the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash in 1929. I am glad that they don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from.

These individuals are throwing a temper tantrum over keeping the education budget flat. The BET Democrats claim that the so-called “rainy day” fund is robust and that it can be used to allow the education budget to remain intact. Isn’t it funny that these same Democrats are worried that we would not have enough money to weather the deferral of real estate taxes to October 1stand wanted to have tax appreciation notes in place in case we ran out of money to run our town government? We wouldn’t have to necessarily use them, they claimed, but we should have them in place “just in case.” Of course, this “just in case” scenario would require tax money to prepare the necessary paperwork, but they don’t seem to care about spending our tax dollars. It is disingenuous of them to say that we have enough money to bolster the education budget, but we may not have enough money to weather a two-month deferment of taxes.

It is clear that the BET Democrats are using the budget to further their political agenda. Go back and watch the meeting recording, at no time on the final decision day did BET Democrats offer any compromise to their modest $700,000 reduction to the education budget other than to spend money from our “rainy day” fund.

One Republican BET member likened it to “your way or the highway.” That was exactly right.

A true negotiation would have seen Democrats raising their ask from $700,000, not use gimmicks to meet their demand. Republicans did not blink and held firm – after all, with no real fiscal counter offer from the Democrats why should they? Now, the Democrats have stoked their PTA base to claim that Republicans are robbing their children of a quality education. I think we all know that this is not true. We spend the most per student of any town in Connecticut!  Education will not suffer in this town. If, on the unlikely case it does, the Board of Education and the Superintendent will be to blame, not BET Republicans.

As a community we should expect more of our Superintendent of Schools during this financial crisis. Great leaders lead. They do not incite a riot, as this Superintendent has done with her letters to parents.

Instead of whining (yes, whining) about how she can’t meat the new budget, she should be working with her Board of Education and her bargaining units to find ways of meeting the budget. But of course, she doesn’t have to worry. Thanks to the taxpayers, her salary and generous stipend make her financial outlook this next year secure.  Another idea for the angry protesting parents and the Superintendent, organize your own fundraiser, nobody is stopping you from writing a check to the schools directly.

BET Republicans should be thanked, not vilified, for showing the leadership that is needed in today’s economic environment. They are doing nothing different from other communities in Connecticut who have reduced their education budgets. BET Republican leaders made the difficult choice to hold the budget level to 2020 levels. In reality, this decision is not a budget reduction. It is simply holding the line on the growth of government for the next year.

BET Republicans are the true leaders of this pandemic. They understand that we are not in ordinary times and it should not be “business as usual”. They get it.  Hopefully others “get it” as well.

Frank Salomone, Greenwich