On Thursday night the BET met until the wee hours and emerged having passed a 2019-20 municipal budget in a vote of 11-1, with Karen Fassuliotis voting against. The operating budget is $444,198,069, which is a slight increase from the operating budget presented to the full BET by the budget committee.
On Friday morning BET chair Jill Oberlander gave a summary of the evening on WGCH1490.
She said changes impacting the operating budget included the allocating funds to the Town Finance Dept for a cyber security review, additional work on construction management throughout the Town and the Board of Education, and, in response to a request from some members of the community, a fire services study.
Other adjustments reflected a projected cost increase on liability insurance coverage. “We did get notification from our risk manager from our new insurance broker that our insurance premiums will be going up quite a bit,” Oberlander said.
Allowances were made for the fact that Greenwich may not receive revenue from the State. “If there is a risk of cost cutting at the state level that might effect projected revenue from the state, we did not want to account for it in our budget,” she said.
Some funds were restored that had been taken out of the budget by the BET Budget Committee, which Oberlander said was in response to public feedback.
For example, funds were restored to the police department’s Marine Police.
Capital Budget: Cardinal Stadium, Northwest Fire House, Bruce Museum
The BET did add money for phase 1 of the Cardinal stadium project.
“We did hear a lot about this project in our public hearing and the need for accessible bathrooms and access to team rooms,” she said. “We wanted to make sure the BOE had enough money in this coming year to address the immediate need for the bleachers, but also add conditions to make sure there is dialogue with the community and interest groups who are supporting that project to address the needs at the site.”
“We also want to make sure land use approvals were obtained before further design and work is on the site went forward,” she added.
The allocation for Bruce Museum was increased to pay for a replacement of the HVAC system, which is over 27 years old. The museum is a town facility.
On a potential northwest fire station, there was a debate about the $100,000 in the capital budget to further investigate locations to site the northwest fire house. The money was ultimately kept in the budget. Money was also included for a fire services study, and both projects will take place simultaneously.
Oberlander said the budget will result in a 2.98% increase in the mill rate, which she said was within target range of BET guidelines.
No changes were made to the Greenwich Schools operating budget.
Oberlander said the Town’s pension contributions increased by a significant amount due to a change in the way the retirement board sets standards for annual contributions.
“They lowered the rate of return that they were using and that increased the Town’s contribution,” Oberlander explained. “While it is a more prudent way to view the funding of our unfunded liability it does increase the present day contributions by taxpayers. That was a significant increase for the town’s operating budget.