Letter to the editor from Drew Marzullo (Greenwich Selectman 2009-2017) and Frank Farricker.
As most taxpayers and parents are aware, the Board of Estimate and Taxation did not grant almost $3 million in additional monies to the Board of Education.
Despite the appeals of many hundreds of parents, the funding did not go forward, a victim of political infighting.
What most taxpayers are not aware of is that the decision was made by twelve people who are selected six apiece by the Republican and Democratic Town Committee. While they are technically elected popularly, their victory is guaranteed and the only question to the voters is which party achieves the most aggregate votes and, therefore, the tie-breaking Chairmanship.
To be clear, the 12 members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, who spend all your tax dollars are not directly elected by, or accountable to, you.
Furthermore, while the budget is required to be ratified by the Representative Town Meeting, that body is only allowed to cut the budget, never to increase funding for anything.
That means, in the case of any clearly and demonstrably unpopular cut like that of the School Board this year, the RTM cannot restore budget items that have been cut, allowing an ideological Board of either right wing or left wing to make drastic reductions in any project they see fit. If this happens, as it did this year, the voter literally has no recourse at all.
You can’t vote them out of office, because only the political parties decide who is on the BET, and nobody can make the BET revisit an issue, as they demonstrated to their detriment recently when a reconsideration hearing was shut down over, of all things, Roberts Rules of Order issues.
This needs to change. Greenwich needs to amend its Charter to allow public input in the rare cases where there is a major disconnect between our finance board and the people they are supposed to serve, and needs to do so in a responsible manner.
The time is now to move forward a change in the Greenwich Charter to permit residents to petition for the right to call a referendum if the budget is not in keeping with the demands of the Town as a whole, including the right to add to appropriations that should be made but were not. What happened this year should never be repeated.
It’s time to take the power in our hands, because next year’s budget will be compiled by the same group of people who took the decision to cut the school budget as much as they did this year.
As much as we respect the heavy work load and the volunteers that create our budget, sometimes they can fall victim to political infighting or just bad decisions, and we the people need to be able to reverse choices that are wrong, and not in keeping with our Town.
We are asking you to help us collect signatures to present to the Board of Selectmen and the RTM for ratification of a Charter Change to allow for budget changes.
If you would like to help keep what occurred this year from ever occurring again, please connect with us at [email protected], and lets right the wrongs of this years budget and keep it from ever happening again. We need the support of thousands of school parents who are frustrated with our government.
Former Greenwich Selectman