Greenwich BET Finally Sets Budget Guidelines

Town's fiscal board looks to budget increases of no more than 2 percent.


Just how much the Town of Greenwich will increase its spending and what it'll mean to residents remains to be seen.

But it appears residents can expect little increase in town services based upon the budget guidelines adopted by the Board of Estimate and Taxation Tuesday following nearly 2 hours of debate which followed party lines.

Republicans, led by Budget Committee Chairman Joseph Pellegrino, ultimately won the debate to increase spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year to no more than a 2 percent increase which would translate into a tax increase of about 2.5 mills per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Democrats, led by Budget Committee member William Finger, failed in their attempt to have town department heads submit budget proposals with increases at 2, 2 1/2 and 3 percent.

The BET voted 6-6 along party lines on Finger's amendment to the guidelines, thus defeating the motion.

After the discussion of Pellegrino's proposed guidelines, the BET again voted 6-6, along party lines. The tiebreaking vote was cast by Republican BET chair Michael Mason.

In making his case for the 2 percent increase guidelines, Pellegrino said that while the town should maintain the high level of services taxpayers want and expect, the BET must consider the financial impact when it comes to tax bills. He acknowledged that as the recession continues, so does the drop in property values—the town's Grand List growth continues to diminish, and not offset property tax increases as the Grand List did prior to the recession.

Pellegrino also said the BET also must consider the Capital Improvement Project obligations facing the town. He said there are "unknown costs" associated with the Music Instructional Space and Auditorium (MISA) project at Greenwich High School which is now under the aegis of state and federal environmental agencies because of soil and water contamination; the $24 million renovation of the town-owned Nathaniel Witherell nursing home, and the construction of a new Central Fire House.

Finger and the Democrats expressed concern that town workers would be laid off with an arbitrary increase of 2 percent and services to residents would be decreased.

The bottom line after all of the debate, the guidelines have the overall town and school budget proposals capped at no more than $340 million and the capital projects at no more than $54 million.

For fiscal year 2012-13, capital projects are at $46 million; and the total town  operating budget is $238 million.

The tax rate is 10.111 mills rise or $10.389 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.


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