Democratic priorities on the BET are what’s right for Greenwich

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickPerhaps the most important votes you cast this November will be for candidates you haven’t even heard of. Here’s a hint: I’m one of them.

I’m talking about the vote for candidates to Greenwich’s Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), the town’s finance board, on which I serve and am standing for re-election to. The BET sets the tax rate, formulates the town’s budget, makes allocations for building projects, and sends all for final approval to the RTM.

While the Democratic and Republican parties each nominate a slate of six candidates to the 12-member board and nomination is tantamount to election, control of the BET is up for grabs. The party whose six candidates collectively garner the most votes wins control the BET. That party chooses the committee chairmen and selects the BET chairman, who casts critical tie-breaking votes.

Why should you care? Because the two parties view what is best for Greenwich’s future very differently.

I and my Democratic colleagues believe we need to substantially improve the infrastructure of our town, which for too long has been permitted to decline. Greenwich is competing for housing dollars with neighboring communities and if we fail to maintain excellent facilities and the best schools, families of means will go elsewhere. If that happens, our property values will suffer.

I and the BET Democrats steadfastly supported building a new auditorium for Greenwich High School (MISA); all six Republicans voted against it. I and the Democrats voted against Republican plans in the last budget to cut spending on maintenance for our aging public schools, eight of which were built more than half a century ago.

I support building a new municipal pool that is worthy of the name Greenwich to replace the current pool in Byram that is old, woefully undersized, has no toilets or changing facilities and is leaking badly. Many other communities in our region have built excellent municipal pools for their residents, including New Canaan and Westport, which has two.

I support building a new Eastern Greenwich Civic Center to replace the old and inadequate current facility, on which we’re spending millions for repairs just to keep it open. I will push to dredge Binney Pond and install silt traps that should have been put in place when we dredged the pond in the mid-1990s. I also support restoring funds for maintenance of our aging school buildings. The maintenance budget of $8 million is nearly a third less in real terms than five years ago.

I and my Democratic colleagues support relieving pressure on taxes with a new debt policy that lets us lock in near-record-low municipal bond rates by borrowing long-term. Paying off major building projects like MISA and the central fire station in just five years makes no sense and substantially increases taxes to current taxpayers.

Goldman Sachs municipal finance expert Greg Carey called the town’s current policy “risky,” “inequitable” and “unfair to current taxpayers.” He’s right. In fact, every other AAA-rated town in Connecticut matches debt maturity to the useful life of their buildings. Doing so substantially reduces pressure on taxes.

I also advocate putting no more funds than are necessary in our general fund balance, which is essentially our rainy day fund. Today, we are sitting on roughly $12 million in idle cash. This is in excess of the required amount and is earning minimal interest. We should be putting that cash to work to pay for soil remediation at GHS or other capital projects.

If you care about these issues, vote for me and the Democrats for BET. Your vote matters.

 

Sean Goldrick is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation running for re-election, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own. He may be reached at [email protected]

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