OPEN LETTER to the BET: BOE Budget Increase Cap is Untenable in 20-21

Open letter to the Board of Estimate and Taxation, submitted by Javier Aleman, District 4; Phyllis Alexander, District 9; Hector Arzeno, District 8; Seth Bacon, District 9; Peter Berg, District 8; Glen Canner, District 12; Andrea Casson, District 4; Mary Flynn, District 12; Betsey Frumin, District 9; Candace Garthwaite, District 6; Ali Ghiorse, District 1; Dana Gordon, District 8; Mareta Hamre, District 10; Scott Kalb, District District 7; Rachel Khanna, District 10; Gunnar Kilntberg, District 6; Laura Kostin, District 8; Lucy Krasnor, District 5; Leander Kreuger, District 6; Janet Lee McMahon, District 8; Paula Legere-Mickley, District 12; Mary Ellen Markowitz, District 2; Hale McSharry, District 5; Cheryl Moss, District 8; JoAnn O’Hara, District 6; Barbara O’Neill, District 6; Sylvester Pecora, District 3; Jonathan Perloe, District 8; Monica Prihoda, District 6; Caryn Rosenbaum, District 8 ; Steven Rubin, District 3; David Snyder, District 6; Joanne Steinhart, District 9; Janet Stone McGuigan, District 6; Joanna Swomley, District 10; Joan Thakor, District 5; Sophie Veronis, District 10; Lucy von Brachel, District 4; Allison Walsh, District 3; Svetlana Wasserman, District 10; Andrew Winston, District 12; Victoria Martin Young, District 6

To the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation:

Twenty days into the start of the 2020-21 school year, we continue to learn how the Covid crisis is impacting our schools – both in-person and remote.  We must now also look to the 2021-22 budget process to ensure the response to the current crisis does not become the expectation for the future. 

With that, we, the undersigned Members of the Representative Town Meeting of Greenwich, respectfully ask the Board of Estimation and Taxation (BET) to support the 2021-22 Board of Education (BOE) budget requested by the Superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools, without imposing an arbitrary percentage increase cap.

For the last decade the BOE has been forced to make cuts to critical programs and staffing in order to cover increasing contractual costs while also complying with the BET’s budget cap. 

Some recent examples include, but are not limited to: professional development; curriculum development; student assured experiences; books; half of a full-time staff position from each of the high school choir, orchestra and band programs; and the high school assistant deans of student life. 

This annual budget cap also prohibits the hiring of essential staff such as social workers, which is an increasingly critical need. 

The results from the upcoming special education study will likely demonstrate numerous deficiencies which we will be federally mandated to address.  Therefore, imposing a 2% budget guideline will not allow our schools to sustain a quality education and we will fail to remain competitive among our peer communities. This has far reaching implications not only to our schools, but also to property values and the mill rate.  

So far this year, the BOE is managing to work within a budget that is $3 million less than the strict budget that was originally approved by the BET Budget Committee.  The BOE has been able to operate within this budget only because of substantial one-time savings attributable to remote learning which do not exist when schools are open.  Without the savings resulting from the closure of the schools — savings which will not be replicated in future years — this year’s budget would have been untenable.

After the one-off expense reductions that are funding this year’s BOE budget, the BET should not double-penalize the schools by imposing a cap on the budget increase for next year based on this year’s budget.  The schools’ operating budget needs to reflect each year’s increasing costs; more broadly it needs to cover the overall cost of running a first-rate school district.  

The BOE has been a responsible steward of the Town’s resources.  It has managed as best as it can within BET budget restrictions, which have been consistently restrictive since the 2012-13 school year, and has searched for ways to reduce expenses.  It has anticipated future educational needs and prepared for them, including the move to individual digital devices, which are proving critical in pulling our schools through the current crisis.  It has also doggedly worked to find savings throughout each school year, returning unspent funds to the Town’s coffers.   

Greenwich is a gem and capable of serving as a national leader.  We only need to act accordingly and fully fund our schools. Now is the time to support our schools and children. 

Thank you for your consideration,

Javier Aleman, District 4

Phyllis Alexander, District 9

Hector Arzeno, District 8

Seth Bacon, District 9

Peter Berg, District 8

Glen Canner, District 12

Andrea Casson, District 4

Mary Flynn, District 12

Betsey Frumin, District 9

Candace Garthwaite, District 6

Ali Ghiorse, District 1 

Dana Gordon, District 8

Mareta Hamre, District 10

Scott Kalb, District District 7

Rachel Khanna, District 10

Gunnar Kilntberg, District 6

Laura Kostin, District 8

Lucy Krasnor, District 5

Leander Kreuger, District 6

Janet Lee McMahon, District 8

Paula Legere-Mickley, District 12

Mary Ellen Markowitz, District 2

Hale McSharry, District 5

Cheryl Moss, District 8

JoAnn O’Hara, District 6

Barbara O’Neill, District 6

Sylvester Pecora, District 3

Jonathan Perloe, District 8

Monica Prihoda, District 6

Caryn Rosenbaum, District 8 

Steven Rubin, District 3

David Snyder, District 6

Joanne Steinhart, District 9

Janet Stone McGuigan, District 6

Joanna Swomley, District 10

Joan Thakor, District 5

Sophie Veronis, District 10

Lucy von Brachel, District 4

Allison Walsh, District 3

Svetlana Wasserman, District 10

Andrew Winston, District 12

Victoria Martin Young, District 6