SPILO: Mr. Finn Toes the Party Lie

Submitted by Michael Spilo

November 7th is the local election and control of Greenwich’s $400 million budget is on the table. Mr. Finn (FINN: Red Herring Alert – Camillo Says the town Will Pile On Debt if We Elect Democrats Aug 13, 2023) wants this in Democrat hands and is engaging in attempts to distract, divert, and mislead, using false information on our children’s schools to try to undermine the stellar track record of our town.

The lies are obvious.  Just look around you… Our town is amazing and the envy of the world.  Here’s the truth:

1) Greenwich has spent an astounding $1.2 Billion taxpayer dollars over the last 19 years on Capital improvements, and this shows everywhere, from our beautiful parks, beaches, community centers, elderly facilities, libraries & museum to our smooth roads and low crime.  These are things you won’t find in nearby towns, run by Democrats. (see charts)

2) Public schools are and always have been a top priority in Greenwich. Greenwich spends millions on schools, and more per student than any other town in CT. This includes the highest teacher salaries in the state by a wide margin as well as over $800 million in total capital spending.

3) Central Middle School is a top priority. It will get built and will get our teachers & kids into new classrooms quickly.  But rest assured, there is no emergency safety issue – any structural issues have been repaired to the satisfaction of all.  In fact, it is unimaginable that, as Mr. Finn pretends, anyone of any party would ever allow children to attend a school that is structurally unsound.

4) The school administration manages 15 school buildings which seem to lurch from crisis to crisis with burst pipes featuring prominently.  Contrast that to the rest of the Town which manages over 100 buildings and yet in my years on the RTM since 2002, I have never seen an emergency appropriation for a burst pipe in a Town run building. It’s not that they don’t occur, it’s that they are managed better with less disruption, while such incidents in the schools are a recurring problem frustrating parents, teachers, and children.

5) The management of the school buildings is the responsibility of the School Administration and Board of Ed (BOE). For schools, the Administration and BOE set their own budget and priorities. Contrary to Mr. Finn, not a single budget item was ever turned down by the Republican led Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) that would have averted any of the issues he mentions.

In fact, in the case of Central Middle School’s façade, the issue was known by the Administration for at least four years while they did nothing – no funds were requested, no repairs scheduled. And, when the BOE finally did request funds, it wasn’t to repair the school, it was to conduct a generic “feasibility study.”  This is why the Department of Public Works had to step in and do the only thing they could – revoke the Certificate of Occupancy, forcing the Administration to act in what seems the only time they do – when confronted with an emergency.

So, contrary to Mr. Finn, to the extent there was any disregard for children’s safety it was from the Administration.

The ceiling collapse at North Mianus School is similar.  The sprinklers had been installed improperly and attached to the ceiling rather than joists, and somehow, for years, no one noticed – not the school facilities people, and not the regular fire inspections. A small leak in the sprinklers weakened the ceiling and the whole thing came crashing down.  Thank goodness this happened on the weekend.

After the collapse of the ceiling and sprinklers, the Administration threw out an arbitrary emergency request for $8 million.  They made this request without any idea of the actual cost of the repair.  That request WAS turned down, and a month later it turned out the actual cost of the repair was $3 million.  Thank goodness for sound fiscal management, saving taxpayers $5 million.

In another example, a large pipe fitting failed in the gigantic and recently built MISA auditorium, flooding the nearby gym.  When the pipe failed, as a member of the RTM Public Works Committee, I suggested that the administration take the time to replace several other similar fittings.  They didn’t.  A year later another fitting burst, again causing a flood.

The School Administration HQ at the Havemeyer building is a more recent casualty.  There, in February, a pipe burst in a water-cooled air-conditioning unit.  Water was running out of the burst pipe for hours. Three floors of the building were heavily damaged.  This could have been prevented if the unit’s water supply had been shut off before winter when the unit was not in use.

Regularly and appropriately scheduled maintenance is necessary for the upkeep of buildings. But even with all appropriate measures, sometimes pipes burst and sewers back up.  For schools, the prioritization of how and when maintenance and repairs are done is up to the Administration, and NONE of the bricks, pipes and sewers Mr. Finn mentions were EVER denied funding.

Mr. Finn doesn’t know what he’s talking about and falsely attempts to pin blame on Selectman Camillo and on the Republican led BET, who together run our beautiful town that serves all residents amazingly well while keeping taxes low by focusing on responsible and cost-effective spending of your hard-earned tax dollars. 

This is an election year and Democrat campaigners have a take no prisoners approach. But using our children’s schools in these games is politics at its worst. Voters should remember who is playing games, and who is doing their job.  I’m confident that voters can look around our beautiful town and see the clearly apparent truth for themselves.

Mr. Spilo is an RTM member from District 11. He is Chairman of the RTM Public Works Committee and of the RTM Labor Contracts Committee and he is the RTM representative on the Central Middle School Building Committee. The views presented are his own.