UPDATE: Camillo’s proposed capital budget for FY 22 is $89 million. The BET guideline is $55 million.
On Tuesday night Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo presented a $450.6 million budget to the BET budget committee chaired by Leslie Tarkington.
The proposed budget represents 0.51 % increase over this year’s fiscal year’s budget, and if approved would result in a 1.75 % increase in the town’s mill rate from 11.590% to 11.793%.
Tax payers with a home assessed at $1 million would see their annual property tax increase $203.
BET budget committee will begin hearings next week.
Camillo opened his presentation with a summary the impact of Covid-19. In Greenwich there have been 3,121 cases and 79 deaths.
The town hall visitor count dropped since reopening, but visits to the town website increased.
“The work is still getting done,” he said. “It’s just getting done in a different manner.”
The First Selectman said that while Covid had created incredible challenges for local businesses, it did not stop new businesses from opening, and that the Chamber of Commerce had 70 members.
He said outdoor dining, marketing and curbside pick were important for the restaurant sector, and thanked all town departments for making sure that restaurants had every opportunity to “stay alive.”
Greenwich’s unemployment rate peaked at about 8% in the middle of the summer. Residents have experienced uncertainty, with some suffering job losses, furloughs and reduced compensation.
Town Hall Headcount Reductions; Creation of Part Time Economic Development Director Job
The First Selectman said he had identified potential reductions in town employee head count.
In addition to three part time positions, full time positions to be eliminated by not filling open positions included: Internal auditor (salary would move to an outside firm), staff assistant in Tax Assessor’s office, legal assistant, town attorney, and a staff assistant in Wetlands. In the Police Dept, a General Service Director and two uniformed officer positions would be eliminated.
He proposed the addition of a .71 part-time Economic Development Director who would focus on recruiting and retaining businesses in Greenwich.
“No matter how worthwhile these projects are, we can’t do them all at once. These are hard choices that are made,” Camillo said, adding that three projects alone – Eastern Greenwich Civic Center and soil remediation at both GHS and WMS – would account for $36 million.
During public comment select person Jill Oberlaner said she was disappointed that the budget did not include an updated bicycle master plan requested by the Conservation Commission.
She said it had the goal of enhancing access and safety for bicycle riders from beginner to experienced.
“Unfortunately, the conservation commission’s request to fund this essential planning document, which notably was supported by the public works department, was not included in the First Selectman’s budget submission.”
Oberlander said without an updated bicycle master plan, even a pilot recreational bicycle route required an updated planning review. And without the document, she said Greenwich might be precluded from applying for grants for bicycle improvement projects.
She noted that during the pandemic families rediscovered the pleasures of bike riding and wanted to be able to ride bikes safely.
Also during public comment several people including Diana Singer, Mary Flynn, Joanna Swomley and Louisa Stone requested funds be added to the budget for a fire station in northwest Greenwich.
“As the most recent study says, over nine minutes (response time) is just too much,” Flynn said. “It would be morally and fiscally irresponsible to kick this can down the road any longer.”
Ms Stone said she was surprised the capital budget made no mention of funds for a fire station.
“This has been a subject of concern for more than 20 years, and it’s only getting worse as we have more people, more schools, more traffic and other activities,” she said. “This is a matter of life and death.”
Swomley said that in 2018 the RTM voted 126-55-3 to agree that fire coverage in that part of town was inadequate and asked the town to remedy the situation.
“Thus, in 2019 the First Selectman and the BET began that process and included money for a site survey. By a very slim margin, and for the express purpose of obtaining independent verification of need, the RTM removed those funds. At the hearing on that motion to delay, proponent after proponent represented that if the study confirmed need, which it now has, they would support adding the funds back, even if it required an interim appropriation to do so.”
Roger Sherman Baldwin Park
Camillo said the Roger Sherman Baldwin Park views were blocked by a 1950s era parks building, and that the first view of the park from Arch Street were of asphalt in the area of the skate park.
The re-designed park would include a wrap around track, and multiple berms to provide color and greenery throughout the year.
“You’re getting a view of the water from certain areas that you haven’t had in 70 years.”Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo
The park would feature new bathrooms housed at the back of the Arch Street Teen Center in a matching brick building.
“Everything is to match, and have a consistent look and feel to the Teen Center,” he said.
The waiting areas for the ferry boats would be covered, but open on the sides to incorporate views.
Camillo said in fiscal year 2022 there would be $1.25 million for design, and $11.2 million in fiscal year 2023 for construction of the park and relocation of facilities.
Camillo recalled how Hamill Rink opened in 1972 with “just a rink and boards,” Over the years a roof, walls and stands were added.
Hamill Rink: $950,000 for design and construction plans, and $17 million for construction in fiscal year 2024.
Camillo said he hoped private donations would significantly lower the costs of a new Hamill rink, as well as the new civic center, and that he’d already heard from multiple donors.
Camillo said an RFP for Nathaniel Witherell issued in October 2020 for management services had received 9 responses. He said proposals were being reviewed and recommendations are anticipated in the spring.
He said in the meantime, management was working on improving operational efficiencies, vendor reviews, instilling managerial discipline, overtime management, evaluation right organizational structure, and both revenue development and diversification of services.
Camillo said he’d met with Nathaniel Witherell board chair Larry Simon and director John Mastronardi, who took over last May. “He has done a phenomenal job,” Camillo said. “I was surprised that some of these things were not being done in years past. But John is really moving the ball forward.”