BET analysis of current policies is lacking

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor

The Greenwich BET’s rejection of longer term funds to finance town capital projects was reported this week. Proponents to use long-term bonds for capital projects meticulously presented all the advantages for a change from pay-as-you-go (PAYGO).

A BET member was then asked why it was rejected, and he basically said, “It’s working for us, so why change it?” Not very critical analysis.

Why can’t the opposition analytically demonstrate why its position is better? How about doing a 20-year historical analysis comparing Greenwich’s actual (PAYGO) results with what would have happened if long-term financing for capital projects had been used.

After all, PAYGO is not a free ride. It requires an ample “rainy day fund” (RDF) to pay for projects and unpredictable emergencies. It’s more a “pay-before-you-go,” since taxes have to be collected to maintain a RDF at a suitable level each year.

This raises several other questions about the RDF. How is a suitable RDF level decided and by whom? How much does the RDF earn for taxpayers, who are paying their taxes early to support that RDF level? Should taxpayers today have to pay for capital projects that will be in use 10 or 20 years from now? Could individual taxpayer households put that money to better use themselves if they were assessed lower taxes?

One would think that a conservative town government would recognize projects are financed by taxpayers’ money, not the town’s money, and therefore try to minimize taxes.

It’s all well and good for the BET opposition to say it’s worked so why change, as long as they have a “sugar daddy” (Greenwich taxpayers) to tap every year to maintain the RDF level. After all, the BET can increase the mill rate, which compounds a taxpayer’s tax bill every year. That can add up — especially for retirees who do not receive an annual salary raise.

Perhaps the PAYGO position is indeed advantageous. However, the least the PAYGO proponents could do is analytically demonstrate to Greenwich citizens why rather than just contend it’s working so why change.

Ric Wolf

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