Skip to Content

Finance Committe Minutes October 2017

Printer-friendly version

Minutes Finance Committee Monday Oct 16, 2017

The Finance Committee participated in a joint meeting with the Land Use Committee in the Town Hall meeting room at 7:30 PM to hear the sponsors of the proposed resolution requesting the release of funds for the New Leb school. All districts were represented except Districts 2, 8 and 9. Michael Warner and Peter Berg (Land Use) chaired the joint meeting.

Peter Sherr (BOE Chairman), Dr. Jill Gildea (GPS Superintendent) and Steve Walko (Chair of New Leb Building Committee), answered questions from the chairman and then from the audience (of about 50). Members of the BET (to include Mike Mason, Jim Lash, Jill Oberlander, Leslie Moriarty, Bill Drake and John Blankley) as well as other members of the BOE were in attendance.

Among the many items that were addressed a few key points raised in the joint meeting were:
Mr. Sherr reminded the audience that the BOE was seeking the release of funds now because of the impending expiration of bids obtained for the project.
Dr. Gildea addressed issues relating to population projections and the need for a new school in Byrum. Ms. She also stated that several other municipalities, also approved for construction grants by the State, were going ahead with their construction projects
Mr. Walko confirmed that contractor commitments had been extended on many of the contracts until Nov 24. He also explained that the Town had received an extension of the time limit before bids expire until late November.

At about 8:30 the Finance Committee adjourned to the cafeteria where further discussion took place. A subset of BET members (to include Mr. Mason, Ms. Oberlander and Mr. Lash) as well as BOE members joined.

The discussion was focused on the “unknowns” related to the release of the $23mm State reimbursement, (grant) that the Town is hoping to receive from the State.
Specifically addressed were the following questions

• Did the BOE meet all BET “conditions” necessary for release of funds? Mr. Mason responded that while technically the answer was “yes”, but since the State budget was not yet approved, as a practical matter the “conditions” as stipulated by the BET were not fulfilled.

• Would the State reimbursement, “grant” for the New Leb construction be included in the final State budget when approved? A BOE representative stated that if the State budget is approved then the New Leb. school grant imbedded with many other project grants in the State budget would also likely be approved, with the understanding the Governor would likely delete the Greenwich construction grant, were able to do so.

One members speculated that release of the funds would encourage the State to decide that Greenwich doesn’t need the funds?
In response, Ms. Oberlander of the BET stated that Greenwich qualified for the higher reimbursement rate based on a State-approved diversity plan, it was not based on financial need. The suggestion that the release of funds would indicate that Greenwich doesn’t need the funds thereby allow a politician in the State reduce the funding qualification that has been established by either statute or regulation is just not correct.

• When would a State budget be finalized? No one attending could attempt to answer this question, any projection would be pure speculation.

• Would the construction of New Leb school satisfy the racial imbalance situation? It’s unknown if the school would relieve this problem, however BOE reps said that the State education authorities gave their approval to the project believing that the imbalance status would likely be corrected.

There was also some discussion of the cost to the Town if the State not to reimburse the Town for the full cost of construction. Mr. Lash, (BET Budget Committee) explained that given the Town 7 year bonding mechanisms coupled with the Capital Tax Levy already in place, there would be little if any tax impact to Greenwich citizens should State funding not be approved.

After a full discussion, a motion was made to make a motion before the full RTM to postpone Item 11 until the Dec RTM meeting. The vote to postpone passed 6-3-0 (w/ District 2, 8 and 9 absent). Those in favor felt that more time might remove some of the uncertainties related to the $23mm. Those opposed felt that the school should be started ASAP either because they believed that Hartford would (or had to) make good on their $23mm promise, or that they would build the currently designed school even if the State didn’t reimburse the TOG as alternatives would be as costly and take more time.

The Chair then also took a vote on Item 11 as presented in the Call. That vote was 5-4-0. Some of the members who had voted to postpone voted yes on Item 11 as is, suggesting that they wanted more time, but if more time was not feasible then they would vote to go forward.

The Finance Committee then took up Item 15 (the Bruce Museum Management Agreement). Susanne Lio and Bob Lawrence answered questions related to the revised agreement. Ms. Lio detailed the points that the Town and the Bruce had been negotiating that might impact the operating budgets for both parties.

Mr. Lawrence talked about the fund-raising that would be started once this agreement was in place.

There were questions raised as to whether the Town should compel the Bruce to not start construction until all donations were in place. There were also issues raised about whether RTM members had received sufficient information to review the new agreement.

The Committee voted 8-0-1 (w/ Districts 2, 8 and 9 absent) in favor of Item 15. District 7 abstained as he wanted more time to reflect on the concerns that had been raised.

The Committee next took up Item 9 (Funding request of $377,000 for The Nathanial Witherell). Larry Simon and Allen Brown answered questions about why an item budgeted for $950k ended up costing ~40% more. While the explanations seemed to fault the weakness of one of the original bidders, in the end Committee members saw the need for the upgrades.

The Committee voted 9-0-0 (w/ Districts 2, 8 and 9 absent) in favor of Item 9.

The final item (#8) on the Call for the Finance Committee to review was the nomination of (our own) Rob Perelli-Minetti to the Labor Contracts Committee. However Rob was not able to attend our meeting so we agreed to postpone our vote on Item 9 to December.

The meeting adjourned at 9:50 PM.