Opinion: After all the criticism, Greenwich's Republican BET was right all along

The primary responsibility of our Board Of Estimate and Taxation (BET) is to conduct the proper administration of the financial affairs of the Town of Greenwich. Within that broad objective lies the challenge of ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not wasted in the process. With its decision to fully fund the Board Of Education’s interim request for $2.6million dollars to complete repairs to North Mianus School, the Republican led BET has been unequivocally proven right.

The ceiling collapse at North Mianus School struck a visceral nerve within our community. That it happened during the February break spared us all a tragedy whose burden our community would have had to bear for decades. Some chose to exploit that event for political gain. Thus, the Republican BET caucus was unjustly portrayed as aloof to the needs of our schools. This narrative has been emphatically discredited.

Without a plan or a contractor, and prior to soliciting any bids for the project, the Board of Education requested $8.1million dollars from the BET. The “estimate” of $8.1million was really just a guess. Thus, in the absence of facts, the BET Budget Committee approved $2.1 million to address the necessary demolition, discovery, cleanup, staff overtime and transportation costs until the BOE could present a defined cost, or put the project out to bid. The $2.1million appropriation was swiftly approved by the RTM.

The rationale for this approach should seem sensible to anyone who has ever done a home renovation project. Why provide the BOE with $8.1 million prior to acquiring any bids from contractors or knowing what the true scope of cost would be? This would, essentially telegraph to contractors what the town was willing to pay for the job. Thankfully, the Republican BET caucus remained steadfast and held firm. The outcome validates this decision.

The BOE then requested an additional $2.6 million to complete the NMS project. The total project cost of $4.7 million is $3.4 million lower than the original BOE “estimate” of 8.1million. The Republican-led BET has now fully funded the NMS remediation project in conjunction with the schedule provided by the superintendent. There were no delays in the process. There was no delay in funding. An emergency meeting of the RTM was scheduled for May 27, at which time it approved the funding.

BET Democrats vilified the Republican BET caucus based on the faulty premise that they should have simply given $8.1 million to the BOE, on the basis of what turned out to be a totally inaccurate cost “estimate.” Other town Democrats attacked our RTM and the time tested processes of our local government. Based on the efficiency and alacrity with which our local institutions have responded, it is clear our town government works efficiently and effectively as is. This is particularly true of the RTM, especially during instances where emergency, interim funding requests are needed for our schools.

For the second consecutive year, the Republican BET has been the target of an ugly and totally unnecessary local political campaign predicated on falsities and fear. Last year we were told teachers would be fired en masse and that the GPS system would suffer irreparable damage due to a tighter pandemic budget. In the end, not a single teacher was fired and the schools returned more than $3.5million in excess cash to the Town. This year, the same folks told us the NMS project would be delayed unnecessarily, and that its funding was in question. This too was a red herring, and totally false.

This year, like last, the Republican BET acted wisely and in the best interests of our entire community. Under immense pressure, they made the tough decisions that were not politically expedient. The Republican BET caucus deserves our sincere thanks for delivering the timely funding they promised for NMS, while also saving taxpayers $3.4 million dollars in the process. They did not deserve the criticism they received. Rather, they did exactly what they were elected to do.

Dan Quigley is chair of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee.