Open letter written by PTA Council executive board and 12 additional PTA executive boards, sent to the RTM and BET, submitted on Oct 19, 2017
Dear Members of the Representative Town Meeting and the Board of Estimate & Taxation,
We are writing to you to ask for your support as the RTM will hold an advisory vote for the release of already allocated funds for the construction of the New Lebanon School building.
Despite the unprecedented uncertainty surrounding the budget negotiations in Hartford, further delaying the ground breaking of this project would be a fiscally irresponsible mistake that, unfortunately, would also risk the State Dept of Education penalizing the town for failing to diversify our schools, with forced redistricting being a probable outcome.
The Town of Greenwich was first cited by the Connecticut State Department of Education as racially imbalanced in 2006 and that imbalance has continued to increase.
After many years of debate, hearings, studies, and stopgap measures, it was finally determined that in order to meet the State’s statute on racial balance, and avoid redistricting, that the best course of action was to build a school in Byram that would accommodate pre-kindergarten and additional magnet seats.
In order to maintain our “neighborhood” schools, reduce racial and economic isolation, improve achievement, and avoid cross-town busing, the only plan to address racial balance that would be approved by the State is this current plan. As the Greenwich Board of Education Chairman, Peter Sherr, said on Sept. 27 “the State is not going away.”
A benefit of this approved plan is that Greenwich was able to successfully apply for a diversity school grant through the State, which covers up to 80% of eligible construction costs. 1
In order to be eligible for the grant, the applicant must first have appropriated the entire cost of the project. In 2016, the Town of Greenwich budget was approved by the RTM and BET, inclusive of $37.5 million dedicated to New Lebanon School’s new building. Every district on the school construction priority list must adhere to the same policies and procedures and allocate 100% of the funding. Despite this allocation, the mill rate in Greenwich has remained stable and continues to be among the lowest in the State, as is true of all large municipal projects completed in Greenwich over the last ten years.
The threat of the reimbursement being withdrawn is, in fact, minimal.
Greenwich’s State delegation, Senator F. Scott Frantz, Rep. Livvy Floren, Rep. Fred Camillo, and Rep. Mike Bocchino, continue to advocate diligently for this project.
They have seen it through the process of being vetted and approved by multiple legislative committees and boards. They ensured that the project was included in the budget plan that passed both the house and senate and are advocating to make certain it stays.
Regardless, it is important to consider the real consequences of withholding the funds any longer.
For one, further delaying construction means that the town will have to pay $100,000 per month to retain the architect and contractor and will allow bids with 28 contractors to expire.
Rebidding and starting construction later will likely result in a more expensive project. More importantly, the current school building is both overcrowded and not conducive to renovation.
No one is debating that New Lebanon School needs a new building. It is important to note that if the Town of Greenwich were to build a new school based on current enrollment only, the cost per the 2014 feasibility study would be between $30 million to $35 million dollars – at a significantly lower reimbursement and a higher direct cost to the town.
The State’s response to our failure to uphold the agreement is to force redistricting. This is currently being discussed in Fairfield and West Hartford. If redistricting is enforced, the Town of Greenwich would be required to cross-town bus approximately 900 students at a minimum estimated expense of $1,500,000 per year for transportation alone. In addition our neighborhood schools would be lost which would impact all residents’ property values.
By not supporting the release of allocated funding to begin construction immediately, you are not only supporting considerable added expenses that will be incurred by our taxpayers, you are also supporting a possible confrontation with the State that will make Greenwich susceptible to forced redistricting of our entire elementary school community by the CT State Board of Education. Once again, as the Greenwich Board of Education Chairman, Peter Sherr, said on Sept. 27 th , 2017 “the State is not going away.”
RTM please vote YES on item 11; BET please vote to immediately release the appropriated funds and support the urgent needs of the children of the Town of Greenwich.
1 General Statues of Connecticut, Vol. II, Ch. 173, Sec. 10-286h.
New Lebanon School PTA Executive Board
PTA Council Executive Board
Parkway School PTA Executive Board
Old Greenwich School PTA Executive Board
North Street School PTA Executive Board
North Mianus School PTA Executive Board
Julian Curtiss School PTA Executive Board
ISD School PTA Executive Board
Hamilton Avenue School PTA Executive Board
Glenville School PTA Executive Board
Cos Cob School PTA Executive Board
Central Middle School PTA Executive Board
Eastern Middle School PTA Executive Board
Western Middle School PTA Executive Board