Letter to BET: Keep Greenwich Affordable for Families

I have been a resident of Greenwich for over 15 years. As a middle-class mother of two, I can tell you that it’s not easy to be able to afford to live in this area. Keeping taxes low is very important for people like me and families like mine. I grew up in Westchester, NY and moved here because of that very reason.

If Greenwich wants to keep middle-class families here, they need to help keep it as affordable as possible. Taxes also greatly affect the elderly and people on fixed incomes. While we want nice amenities in Town and good schools, this needs to be accomplished responsibly.

Overspending on Capital Projects out of fear of being called names and having lies spread through op eds in local papers, must be avoided. It is your duty to ensure that Capital Projects have reasonable budgets and are not wasteful. Building a middle school for 660+ students, when School studies project an enrollment of approximately 450 students on average over the next decade, is wasteful and ridiculous. The facts about these projects need to be written in an understandable way and given to the Community to dispel the lies being told about the funding of these projects. We all want excellent schools and safe schools. There is a fiscally responsible way to do that…putting out the facts and sticking to a reasonable budget.

There are questions about some of these Capital Projects that remain unanswered.

For example, why is the BOE proposing a CMS build for hundreds more students than the number of students projected to be attending for the next decade? Why 8 janitors in the SLAM architectural plan for CMS instead of the 6 it currently has? Larger square footage will increase the maintenance and personnel costs. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend that money on educating our kids? Why a proposal to add $35 to $40M to the budget for a bare-bones renovation of Old Greenwich school when we haven’t first looked at the cost of a new school? Why does the Town’s pickleball project cost more than comparable private courts? The same thing occurs in other town building projects. Do we consider it okay to be overcharged on building projects because it’s taxpayers’ money? Why isn’t $275,000 sufficient for four pickle ball courts?

Do not let the BET get bullied into overspending, or that will become the norm.

While Greenwich is a wealthy Town in general, there is a large disparity among the residents here. The people who scream the loudest for increased spending, do so because they can afford to, while many of us cannot. I have neighbors who considered it a hardship when their sanitation costs when up $10/mo and they had to switch services. The state of our economy is on a steep downward trajectory. Overspending, inflation and poor energy policies have caused a huge strain on the middle-class. We are now paying almost double for gas, food and electric. Many families are having a very difficult time making ends meet, especially those of us who are above the threshold for financial help through social services. It’s the middle-class families with two working parents that typically don’t qualify for help, who are bearing the burden of bad policies, yet are forced to try to survive under conditions that the wealthiest in the community are unaffected by. If you want to keep these families in Greenwich, please keep our taxes from increasing and be fiscally responsible and transparent with capital projects.

We fund our schools very well and spend perhaps the most per-student than any comparable Town in the State. Our Board of Education gets the funding they ask for but then stall on the projects that the funding was allocated for and poorly prioritize school projects. If projects had been properly prioritized over the years, we wouldn’t be having half the issues we’re currently dealing with. How many millions has been spent on dirt, fields and a Stadium while Air quality, HVAC, plumbing and school infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate. The BOE should also have to spend all the money allocated before asking for more. We have always funded our schools well and the Town needs to stand up to the BOE and bullies writing op eds full of unfounded accusations and misinformation. Shine a light on the facts about the school projects and the excellent job the Town and BET have historically done in funding our schools. Truth and transparency will always work in your favor if you’re doing the right thing. Do not allow bullies to push a narrative that is untrue. Greenwich residents are too often not provided with the truth and details behind the BET decisions and instead rely on garbage opinion articles from one side with the intention of pushing a political narrative against the other.

We all love our Town and want what is best for our children and our residents. Spend responsibly and keep taxes low so families can afford to stay here.

by Kristen Niemynski

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