QUIGLEY: Town Democrats – The Budget Process Is Unfair When We Don’t Get Our Way

Submitted by Dan Quigley, Chair, Republican Town Committee Chair

In a letter just published, a list of 36 town Democrats (GROUP LETTER: Why We’ll Vote to Reject the Budget May 9, 2021) contend that the Budget process that has existed in our town for decades, is “highly partisan” “shamefully inadequate”and “lack(s) a democratic process”.

Why is this extremely transparent process of checks and balances being ridiculed? Because these 36 people are angry the town did not spend millions of dollars more to fund projects they support.

The signees of this letter treat the budget process as though it consists of a few meetings by the town Finance Board (BET) and is then whisked away to the RTM for final approval within a matter of days. This is a gross misrepresentation of the process and takes the reader for a fool. At one point, the letter comically attempts to illustrate “Here’s how it works”. This is the rhetorical equivalent of a driving lesson in which the instructor starts the car, puts it in reverse and backs into a brick wall.

The budget process in Greenwich is a multiple months long ordeal consisting of countless public BET and town departmental meetings. The BET submits its guidelines to town departments for Operating Budgets in October, while BET Capital Budget guidelines are submitted in December. By late January, the town departments and First Selectman submit their budgets to the BET. Sometimes they fall within what the BET recommends, mostly they exceed the guidelines. Thus begins the process of debate and a line item, by line item review of the budget. The goal of which is to produce a budget everyone can live with to some degree of satisfaction.

Back to this perplexing letter by 36 town Democrats. The signees claim that because the RTM can only cut budget items at its annual budget meeting that this is unfair. What these folks either do not understand or more likely have intentionally omitted is that from October until now, all of the RTM committees (comprised of RTM members) have met many times, reviewed the budget and presented their case to the RTM for or against additional spending.

In other words, this budget is a reflection of the RTM even though it is ultimately the BET’s responsibility to present the budget to the RTM for final passage. 

The signees of this letter are stomping their feet in a fit  because the budget did not give them everything they wanted. They go on to conclude that “the BET has for years been proposing underfunded budgets” and that “GOP members of the BET have let you down”. This ignores the fact that just two years ago Democrats ran the BET, and funded the budget in much the same way. 

The letter in question is representative of a vocal minority of our town who have made it their raison d’etre to target Republican BET members in November. They point out in their concluding paragraph that the budge process “is a ludicrous way to run our finances”. Greenwich has maintained its Triple A credit rating through the Great Recession of 2008, and the pandemic while executing this very process. People have fled TO our town this past year because of its reputation for being extremely well managed, as well as its excellent public schools and reasonably low tax rates. 

Our budget process works just fine.