Submitted by Janet Stone McGuigan, Greenwich Selectperson
As the Board of Estimate and Taxation nears its vote on the Town budget on April 19, I’d like to share a few thoughts.
First and foremost, the twelve members of this board contribute their time and talent to our Town without compensation. As someone following the budget process closely, I note the collective number of hours devoted to this exercise is staggering. Let’s not wait until National Volunteer Week later this month to show our appreciation to them.
That said, one of the reasons for the lengthy budget discussions was there were over 30 motions to delete, reduce or defer millions of capital budget line items from a proposed capital budget of $86 million. For context, the combined capital expenses projected over the next five fiscal years are estimated to be $600 million, over twice those of the past five-year period.
How did Greenwich get to this state of affairs? By deferring much needed capital projects, in particular – but not only – our schools.
Clearly these escalating capital needs would challenge any town, but instead of trying to address them, the BET leadership’s response has been to continue to defer projects to future years. This approach is not sustainable, and won’t be enough given our critical capital needs. The only way to adhere to the Town’s current modified pay-as-you-go approach would be to give up on some of our largest and most critical capital projects – our schools.
Instead, the BET should be developing a long-term plan to finance the Town’s most critical school renovation and remediation projects. The BET should still pursue pay-as-you-go to finance annual maintenance capital projects. Once Greenwich catches up on deferred capital spending over the next five years, spending levels will drop.
So let me bring this back to the proposed budget awaiting approval. Some of the proposed capital projects have large budgets and are critical to our Town. Others have relatively tiny budgets and will go far in building social capital. In my view I do not serve the Town by championing one capital line item over another. Greenwich is lovely, but to keep it vibrant it needs investment.
Where I can serve the Town is to ask the members of the BET to please focus their efforts on responsible capital planning. And I’ll end where I began, in thanking the BET members for their services.