Of human bonding

FI-EditorialMany in town are breathlessly waiting to see what the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) will do about the price tag for the music instructional space and auditorium (MISA) project at Greenwich High School.

As of the deadline for this week’s edition, it’s impossible to guess what the BET will do as the expanded funding request came before it Wednesday night. By the time this is read, it will have made its decision and one can only hope that it makes the right one and allows MISA to proceed. After all the discussions of this thoroughly vetted project, its merits remain clear as an investment for the town, and stripping it down or stopping it cold would be serious mistakes.

But the discussion that needs to happen is bigger than just one project. It’s time to have a real exploration of the merits of long-term financing, a topic that has gained steam in recent months and is expected to be a big topic of the upcoming BET election in November, especially since Democrats are carrying the banner on this one.

So far the topic has been given only a surface discussion by the full BET, and the proponents and opponents seem split along party lines, with the Democrats in favor of it and the Republicans against it, favoring the current model of adhering closely to a pay-as-you-go policy. But there is evidence to suggest that this policy may no longer be what’s best for Greenwich.

The town more or less stands alone in Fairfield County when it comes to eschewing long-term bonding. That in of itself is never a reason to do something, but there are benefits to taking on a longer term debt repayment that absolutely must be discussed. The BET is holding committee meetings now looking at bonding and debt, but the Republicans on the board must be ready to cooperate with Democrats and give this discussion an open and fair hearing where it is seriously considered on its merits.

The argument in response to this can’t just be, “That’s not the way we do things here in Greenwich” or “Well, that’s what the Democrats want, so we’d better oppose it.” Just because something has always been done one way doesn’t mean that a change doesn’t make sense given the circumstances. And opposing something just because the opposite party likes it is exactly what has driven Washington into partisan gridlock. Greenwich is better than that.

No one wants to work Greenwich into massive debt by going on a “buy now, pay later” spending spree, and no one is seriously suggesting that. That’s not what long-term financing does. What it could well do is ensure that Greenwich remains a town known for its services and ability to offer residents more than they would get elsewhere in Fairfield or Westchester counties. That means a municipal pool, top-notch fire and public safety facilities, The Nathaniel Witherell, and, of course, a world-class high school with an auditorium matching the commitment of the staff and the talent of the students.

Somewhere along the way, some people stopped looking at Greenwich as the kind of community that cares and started seeing it as one that should just offer the lowest taxes. Low taxes are great, don’t get us wrong. But investment in the town will be what makes Greenwich continue to stand out and bring in new families that will stay here and raise children, ensuring future generations love this town as much as those already here.

The time is now for this discussion, and the BET needs to get to work on it.

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