A Look at Greenwich’s Proposed 2023-24 Budget
Greenwich's proposed budget is $427.4 million, an increase of 3.49% or $14.4 million from last year. The budget also includes an additional $53.5 million to be raised by taxes for capital projects, for an overall budget of $480.9 million.
In Greenwich, most of the focus and conversation has been around the town’s capital budget, with about $400 million in capital projects planned for the next five years, particularly focusing on renovating the schools.
In his proposed budget, First Selectman Fred Camillo called for focusing on work at Central Middle School this year and pushing out the funding for Old Greenwich school until next year.
“We support all of the projects—we just pushed them out a year,” he said at the proposed budget hearing. “You can only do one at a time, right now it’s Central. Old Greenwich would be next.”
But parents and school officials said that the problems at Old Greenwich, which include a lack of ADA accessibility and sewage/flooding problems in classrooms when it rains, can’t wait another year.
Proposed Budget by the Numbers
Camillo’s proposal includes a proposed budget of $427.4 million, an increase of 3.49% or $14.4 million from last year. The budget also includes an additional $53.5 million to be raised by taxes for capital projects, for an overall budget of $480.9 million.
For the Board of Education, Superintendent Toni Jones proposed a 2.9% increase over last year or $5.2 million for a $182.2 million operating budget.
The main reasons for the increase include contractual obligations, an increase in special education tuition, and higher transportation costs. The district also reduced about $1 million in positions, based on staffing and enrollment evaluations.
Highlights from the Proposed Budget
The proposed budget calls for continuing security patrols at the local schools, which the town put into place following the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Three officers would each be assigned five schools to rotate between and provide support.
“We think that’s a reasonable approach given the budget constraints,” Camillo said.
The budget also includes funding to address the remediation of the fields at Western Middle School, design and construction plans for the Dorothy Hamill Skating rink, design work for Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, paving, highway maintenance, and stormwater drainage.
Camillo also noted that they’re working to get a management company to come in and provide services at Nathaniel Witherell, but that process is still ongoing.
“We want to make sure that facility is there, providing the most efficient healthcare,” he said. “The time for kicking the can down the road has got to end.”
Jones said that they worked hard to keep the increase as low as possible, while also providing supports to students.
“We were really excited as we watched our numbers coming out of COVID,” she said. “We did not have the COVID slide that a lot of school districts did across the country.”
Camillo warned residents that the increase in capital projects would be felt by residents.
“We are committed and I am committed to getting these projects done, but we want to make sure that people know that you will see it in your taxes,” he said.
But residents and school officials pushed back, particularly related to the Old Greenwich School.
Principal Jennifer Bencivengo said that the school was “woefully out of compliance” with the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1992.
“This is the fifth time in as many years that I’ve stood before you requesting funding for all of our school’s much needed renovations and expansion projects,” she said. “It is unconscionable to think that a child with a physical limitation is not able to attend their neighborhood school. Please continue the commitment you made to support the next steps in our renovation.”
Parent Craig Berendowski shared his son’s story with the board, urging them to make the school ADA compliant.
“My 9-year-old broke his leg a few weeks ago and this became very real to him,” he told the Board of Estimate and Taxation. “Three decades of neglect was a personal thing for him. He loves school so much you can imagine his crushing defeat when he realized he might not be able to attend school because his classroom is on the third floor.”
Because the school has no elevator, Berendowski said that his son’s excitement for school was “replaced by anxiety.” He thanked the principal and teachers for making some adjustments to allow his son to have some classes with them on the first floor, but noted that this was disruptive to his fellow classmates and teachers.
Janet McMahon, a parent and member of the RTM, said that the Board of Education’s budget “has been squeezed dry” and the facility repairs are needed immediately.
“For decades we have exceedingly failed to maintain our facilities and it shows,” she said. “Central Middle School has gotten to such a state of disrepair we can no longer renovate.”
She told the board that the town’s mill rate and efforts to keep it low sit “on the back of 9,000 students who are learning in decrepit schools.”
Camillo also said that many of the increases are due to high costs for energy, inflationary prices, and labor costs.
He also said that they didn’t want to overburden the taxpayers too much.
“We try to make Greenwich a place where people can not only continue to live here, but also retire here,” he said.
The Board of Estimate and Taxation’s Budget Committee has finished its review of the budget. The next step is for a public hearing on Wednesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. Following the public hearing, the full Board of Estimate and Taxation will vote on the budget on Tuesday, April 4.