Greenwich BET Democrats Explain the Democratic Vote on the Town Budget

Submitted by Democratic members of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation, Tuesday, April 16 BET Decision day

Today, the six Democrats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) deliberately divided their vote to provide just enough support to pass the 2024-2025 budget for the Town of Greenwich. But we are dismayed that our Republican colleagues used their majority on the BET to cut key funding provisions, which threaten our quality of life and put our townspeople at risk.

Yet, we stepped up because we are keenly aware of our responsibility to get a budget in place and to protect what residents had fought for and achieved. Passing this budget, flawed as it may be, prevents a chaotic and divided Republican caucus from making further cuts.

We successfully delivered the following positive outcomes:
● adding two new desperately needed fire engines to an aging fleet;
● avoiding the Republican-proposed deletion of the entire Old Greenwich School renovation;
● rescuing the Glenville corridor traffic project and getting it into the budget,
● renovating the Cos Cob library, and fixing old elevators and a sewer line at the main branch;
● avoiding a devastating, Republican-proposed cut to the public schools budget
● providing funding to start the sidewalk project to Tod’s Point.

Yet we did not have the votes to prevent Republican cuts to the budget that we believe are damaging to our town:
● They cut essential funding for already-approved capital projects;
● They cut essential traffic and safety initiatives proposed by the First Selectman;
● They cut future capital allocations for the Riverside School renovation project;
● They cut planning so Greenwich could receive federal grants under the Infrastructure Bill;
● They once again refused to add ADA accessibility to sidewalks and town owned facilities for our residents;
● They cut Byram traffic safety improvements;
● They cut phase two of the Julian Curtiss School renovation project;
● They cut proper maintenance to prevent flooding at our schools and in town.

Of critical importance in our view, is that the Republican majority on the BET also cut $2 million in previously approved funding for the capital plan, which puts the town in the position of running out of money a few years from now. Setting aside capital for future projects is customary and prudent; not doing so is completely irresponsible.

How did we get here?
The BET Budget Committee voted unanimously on February 28th to recommend a final FY25 budget for vote by the full BET. This vote was bipartisan and reflected the outcome of many long days of deliberation and evaluation. The budget as approved by the Budget Committee reflected a mill rate increase of 3.61%, substantially below the 4.28% increase that the First Selectman proposed in his budget submission.

Every BET Democrat supported the Budget Committee budget. But that’s not where it ended.

On the evening of March 26th, the day prior to budget Decision Day, the Republicans on the BET sent a 58-page document filled with amendments which would radically change what the Budget Committee had so arduously worked to achieve. The changes imposed by the Republican majority on Decision Day gutted the First Selectman’s budget and failed to meet minimum standards of fiscal responsibility.

The net effect of these changes reduces the mill rate increase to 2.8%, far below the current rate of inflation, far less than what was requested by the First Selectman, far less than what the Budget Committee had approved, and even below the original 3.21% BET “guideline” issued to the departments at the outset of the budget process.

While keeping taxes low is an important goal of the BET, our role as responsible fiscal stewards is to ensure essential funding for safety and town services and to set aside sufficient funding from tax payments so that we adhere to debt policy and state statutes. The Budget Committee budget did that. But what we ended up with today does not.

Elections have consequences

We are the “minority” party and without benefit of the tie-breaking vote accorded to the Republican majority under the Town Charter. Given this limitation, we elected to break their existing logjam to achieve the most sensible budget outcome available to us, and protect our townspeople as best we could. Elections have consequences. We get the kind of government the people vote for. If you’re dissatisfied, you might consider voting a different way in the next municipal elections in November, 2025.

Leslie Moriarty, BET Democratic Caucus Chair
David Weisbrod
Stephen Selbst
Matt DesChamps
Scott Kalb
Elliot Alchek