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Tesei proposes $442 million municipal budget

January 25, 2019

GREENWICH — Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei proposed a 3.85 percent increase in town spending Thursday evening as he unveiled his planned $442.3 million municipal budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“This budget represents a continuation of Greenwich’s recognized sound financial and budgeting practices while managing the financial unpredictability caused by the budgeting and tax policies on both the federal and state levels,” Tesei said at the budget presentation before the Board of Estimate and Taxation and members of the public.

“In particular, this budget reinforces my commitment to maintain the prosperous character of the town of Greenwich and to grow its international reputation as the premier place to live, work and raise a family and a place where residents hold in high regard the services they receive,” he said.

Under Tesei’s proposed budget, the town’s mill rate, used to calculate property taxes, would increase 2.99 percent, which would be within guidelines approved last year by the BET. The budget for the current fiscal year totals $425.9 million.

There was no increase in the mill rate in the current budget. By averaging the two years, it would come out to an increase of only 1.5 percent, Tesei said. If the budget was approved at the proposed level, the mill rate would increase from 11.369 to 11.709. That would mean a Greenwich homeowner with a home of $1 million assessed value would see a property tax increase of $340, he said.

The budget plan proposes $57.1 million in proposed capital spending, including money for developing a northwest fire station. Tesei’s budget includes $250,000 to design a replacement for the Dorothy Hamill Rink and $300,000 for architecture and engineering work on a new Eastern Greenwich Civic Center, although construction would be in future years.

All of the town’s budget documents are available at https://www.greenwichct.gov/460/Budget-Documents-Schedules.

The BET Budget Committee will now begin its work. A hearing will be held on the proposed budget on Jan. 31, focusing on the $163 million school budget, which includes $26 million in capital spending. The Budget Committee will then hold hearings throughout the month of February, looking at town departments and their budget requests.

Those hearings will include a Feb. 4 presentation about the proposed northwest fire station, which has been blocked previously by the Representative Town Meeting. The proposed station, which would also include space for Greenwich Emergency Medical Services, has been a priority of Tesei’s for years. The Feb. 4 presentation, he said, will be about the work that’s been done since September to find a suitable site for the station.

The proposed budget includes $100,000 to evaluate properties in northwest Greenwich for the station.

“We will make the case for this resource,” Tesei said, which he said is critical for the safety of the community.

The budget also includes $2 million for soil remediation of Greenwich High School and $50,000 for a study to determine how to “better utilize, enhance and expand our downtown waterfront” with a focus on Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. Tesei said he hoped this would be done in conjunction with the dredging of Greenwich Harbor.

A public hearing was to be held after Tesei presented the municipal budget, and Interim Superintendent Ralph Mayo discussed the schools budget. The $53.8 million in capital spending for the schools is expected to be a source of contention throughout the budget process.

Tesei defended the capital budget in his presentation, saying it “continues to invest in town infrastructure to enhance the quality of life, advance critical public safety projects and support our excellent school system.”

Both the Budget Committee and the full BET have the power to cut or place conditions on budget items. The BET can also add money to the budget, which the RTM cannot do. The RTM can only make cuts.

The Budget Committee is scheduled to vote on the 2019-20 budget on March 1. The full BET will vote on March 28. A public hearing on the budget will be held March 26, before that vote takes place.

The RTM will have the final vote on the budget in May.

At the Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday morning, Tesei stressed that it was a level services budget and gave “a great deal of gratitude” to the town departments that worked with him and Town Administrator Ben Branyan. And he also thanked the boards, commissions and outside agencies that had worked on the budget.

“There’s nothing in this budget that shows a diminution of service,” Tesei said. “And in certain areas, it actually increases services through the support we’re providing to non-governmental organizations like the YWCA to continue their domestic abuse prevention and education program in our schools.” He said he would keep a commitment to send $60,000 to the nonprofit.

Costs driving the increases in the budget are health care, pensions, contractually obligated salaries and providing for legal insurance risk, Tesesi said.

“It’s important to note when people complain about that and say it’s gone up, to stop, pause and think what are we hearing from states that have issues?” Tesei said. “They didn’t fund these obligations. We’re actually funding our obligations. We should be proud of that, not lamenting it. They’re being funded because they’re required to be.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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