Republican BET Members: Why We Voted to Approve $31.4 million of American Rescue Program Funding

Statement from the Republican Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), Dan Ozizmir (chair), Mike Basham, Nisha Arora, Bill Drake, Karen Fassuliotis, Leslie Tarkington.

Greenwich was allocated $31.4 million of federal grant funds from the US $1.9 trillion program passed in 2021 referred to as the American Rescue Plan (ARP). As Greenwich taxpayers we are aware there is no such thing as “free” federal or state money. As a successful and hardworking community our residents will pay multiples of these funds in higher taxes and inflation. We are already seeing this. This said, it’s the responsibility of your municipal Town of Greenwich government including, the First Selectman, Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) and Representative Town Meeting (RTM) to assure our allocation of $31.4 million is spent wisely in a manner that supports those most in need and invests in the future of Greenwich. This grant is a special opportunity for our community after two years of COVID-19 imposed suffering.

We have worked hard with our town leaders including the First Selectman, Town Administrator, and the ARP Committee appointed by the First Selectman to put our priorities in the right place. The ARP budget plan allocates 89% of the funds for capital projects that invest in our Town and residents’ future. These funds must strictly comply with the restrictions and parameters of the federal grant and will be audited to ensure compliance. We have recently had to repay the federal government’s FEMA for a resident’s misallocation of FEMA grant funds and are acutely aware of a recipient of funds not complying with government regulations.

Fifty-seven percent of the Town’s total allocation of ARP funds are budgeted to be invested in the Town’s public schools. $10 million, or 32% of the budget are used to fund environmental remediation at Greenwich High School. $8 million, or 25% of the budget are used to improve and invest in heating,
ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) in our schools.

Storm IDA showed us that there are serious problems in drainage and flooding throughout Greenwich. The ARP budget funds four new projects to start to address these issues. $9.6 million or 30% are invested to renew the Town’s sewer and drainage infrastructure projects in selected Town neighborhoods hit the hardest. By using the ARP funds to support and accelerate these projects we help mitigate drainage concerns and assure these neighborhoods are preserved.

The proposed ARP budget also uses over $3 million of our ARP funds to address impacted citizens, including $1.3 million for 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, $860 thousand for the Town’s Department of Human Services and its clients, $280 thousand for HVAC upgrade and improvements for the Greenwich Public Library, and $1.1 million for affordable housing by providing seed money to the Affordable Housing Trust. We are hopeful with this latter contribution, that it will incentivize others in the private sector including local corporations, trusts, and residents to support this public private partnership to build affordable housing while preserving neighborhood character.

A bi-partisan majority of the BET voted to support these funding recommendations that balance current needs with investment in critical infrastructure. We encourage members of the RTM and
our community to support these recommendations.

Republican BET, Dan Ozizmir, Mike Basham, Nisha Arora, Bill Drake, Karen Fassuliotis, Leslie Tarkington.