Greenwich BET passes $465m budget plan with ‘significant capital investment in schools’

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GREENWICH — As part of the municipal budget approved by the Board of Estimate & Taxation, the city may reduce its per-mile rate by 2.65 per cent.

The proposed budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which begins July 1, totals $ 465,105,871. It was passed late Tuesday evening by the BET and now goes to the representative municipal assembly for the final vote on May 9.

The BET vote, which came after a nearly 1 p.m. meeting Tuesday at City Hall, was split along party lines but was free from the partisan anger that has been seen in some budget votes previous.

The six majority Republicans BET voted for the budget, but six Democrats voted against, saying it does not go far enough in planning the future of the city. The President of BET, Dan Ozizmir, used his casting vote to adopt the budget, 7-6.

“Budgets represent values,” Ozizmir said at the meeting. “Budgets represent choices. I can say for myself and I think for the rest of my caucus, we voted for this budget because of what he has achieved.

He praised what the budget accomplished, including allocating $2.5 million to begin work on a new Central Middle School, which became a top priority after the school was closed in February by problems. structural; and $1 million for architectural and engineering work at Old Greenwich School, which has accessibility and flooding issues from the ADA.

Infrastructure and public safety projects, including pedestrian safety improvements in Byram and sidewalks in Old Greenwich, are also included in the budget plan.

“We have just started the largest capital investment in schools that we have seen in history or in many years,” Ozizmir said. “I think we went through a stalemate with the BET and Board of Ed is not speaking. I must say that we have made great progress in developing a plan that accelerates the Central Middle School and Old Greenwich starts and meets the immediate concerns of Julian Curtiss. It is clear that there has not been much discussion and communication we would all like, but the fact is that we did.

“We are moving forward,” he said.

With federal funds from the U.S. bailout as well as money included in the municipal budget, Ozizmir said there would be more than $85 million in capital investment in the city, which he said was the highest amount in Greenwich history.

Democratic objections

But after the vote, BET member Leslie Moriarty, chairman of the Democratic caucus, pointed to two votes for the lack of Democratic support for the budget. There was no Republican support for Democratic motions to expand the use of long-term financing and add $2 million to the capital tax for future projects, she said.

“We are not surprised by the result, but we are definitely disappointed,” Moriarty said. “This is primarily because the council has missed an opportunity to plan future capital needs of the city. The budget includes significant investments, but we voted against it especially does not include. This does not improve the city’s ability to invest in infrastructure projects and needed improvement.

There were too many projects postponed, she said, which put the city in its current position to deal with many areas that needed attention at some point. She said the plane just “launched the can down the road. »

“It should not have to build failures as Central Middle School or North Mianus School to draw attention to this advice,” Moriarty said. “Managing for the bottom line has left us with schools that don’t meet today’s facility or education standards; recreational facilities that are lacking compared to other communities, both in number and quality of playgrounds; lack of safe cycle paths; and a skate falling apart from the rink. This card needs to find better solutions and better balance “.

Areas of disagreement

The BET disagreed on several items in the budget, particularly regarding the Julian Curtiss School.

Democrats favored the full $1.5 million requested by the Board of Education to cover architectural and engineering work to renovate and expand the school. But Republicans voted to cut it due to concerns over expansion plans and declining enrollment. Instead, Republicans supported funding parts of the project, including HVAC and accessibility improvements.

The biggest disagreement concerned the future capital projects and how to finance them.

BET Democrat David Weisbrod introduced a motion, which did not receive Republican support, for long-term funding covering $12.5 million for soil remediation at Greenwich High School, $8 million for Western Middle School and 2.5 million to Central Middle School.

Without taking those steps, Weisbrod said he fears BET’s policies and funding limits could crowd out future capital projects. It would be “unsustainable, unachievable and does not reflect the interests of the community or the things that both parties have advocated for,” particularly schools and a new ice rink, he said.

“Very, may not be very important projects,” said Weisbrod.

Some Republicans have expressed interest in the proposal, but none voted for.

“I said that we are now working, but there may be a time when that does not work and it is in the interest of the city and taxpayers to do something else,” the Republican said BET Michael Basham. The next year, he said, the city might need to finance projects of $ 170 million.

Ozizmir promised that the BET would hold discussions this year on the balance of funds policy, debt and the planning process for the newly reinstated capital improvement project with first coach Fred Camillo.

“I don’t think anyone should think that this board doesn’t think very seriously about these issues,” he said.

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