11 May BET budget reflects community values (op-ed)
Photo: Bob Luckey Jr. / Hearst Connecticut Media
On Monday, May 13, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will vote on a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1 and runs through June 30, 2020.
The budget being considered was approved by the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) on March 28 and represents months of work by the town, Greenwich Public Schools and numerous boards and commissions. The recommended General Fund (Operating) budget, including Fixed Charges, is $390,351,069, which is an increase of 4.1 percent over the current year. The budget also includes a tax levy for capital projects equal to $53,847,000. The capital projects included in the recommended budget total $51.7 million in expenditures. As presented, the budget anticipates a 2.98 percent increase in the real property mill rate. This marks the 18th consecutive year for which the rate of increase in the mill rate was 3.5 percent or less.
The recommended budget reflects community values. It emphasizes maintaining town services at the community-desired level, continued support of high-quality schools at established class size guidelines, investment to maintain a state of good repair in both town and school infrastructure, and initiatives to perform important planning and risk-management functions. The recommended budget also supports community initiatives including enhancements to Greenwich Library, the Bruce Museum, domestic violence prevention education, and transportation services for the Town’s most vulnerable.
Budget discussions this year focused on town-wide services, including fire, capital investment in our schools and recreational facilities (Cardinal Stadium, Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink, Eastern Greenwich Civic Center), process improvements (capital project management), and risk management (cybersecurity and insurance). An extensive community discussion was held on the level of debt that is reasonable for Greenwich.
This year’s budget sets the stage for important conversations about the delivery of services and the community’s desired level of capital investment in town infrastructure. The BET is mindful of the financial pressures and uncertainty facing Greenwich taxpayers. As your elected representatives, we are working to address town challenges within a fiscally responsible framework. We do this while balancing different approaches to maintaining Greenwich as the Ttown in which we want to live and to which new residents want to locate.
Thank you for entrusting us with this responsibility.
Jill Oberlander is chair of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation.