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$404 Million Budget Moves Forward in Greenwich

GREENWICH, Conn. – After months of deliberations, the largest budget in Greenwich history — $404 million — was approved Thursday night by the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation.

“I would like to note the town just went over the $400 million mark,” said board Chairman Michael Mason when the $404,341,313 budget for 2012-13 was finalized. It will now be sent to the Representative Town Meeting for deliberation and a final vote.

About $46 million, or 10 percent, of the total budget is for capital improvements, a portion BET member Randall Huffman says is “not adequate” to keep infrastructure “at the level it should be.” He added, “We still have some work to do to increase a capital budget to improve its fiscal structure and its capital structure.”

Despite opposition from several residents on additional funding for the Greenwich High School auditorium project at a budget hearing Tuesday night, the board approved this year’s funding of $12.515 million. BET member Leslie Tarkington said the Music Instructional Space and Auditorium project, along with cleanup from contaminated soil at the site, will dominate this fiscal year and the next one, too.

Another high-profile capital project, the central fire station, had a condition placed on it by the board to ensure proper environmental investigations — such as asbestos abatement – are done before the old fire station is demolished.

“This board has not yet had a chance to see schematics of what the design of the new station would be and what the cost estimates are,” said member Jeffrey Ramer. “It seems sensible we know a little more about what’s going to be taking place there in the demolition and what the final building will be like before we approve demolition of the existing structure.”

Joseph Pellegrino, BET Budget Committee chairman, said the condition was not an attempt to hold off construction but a way to make sure the town will not have “a hole in the ground.”

To improve fire department coverage in the northwest corridor of Greenwich, the board approved an amendment in the department’s $13.7 million budget to use $700,000 to increase staffing at the Glenville Fire Station from two full-time firefighters to four.

An amendment was made to include $27,000 for the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency to digitize old records. The funding would allow the public to access the agency’s records from 1975 to 1999 online. The department initially requested the funding, but First Selectman Peter Tesei nixed the funds in the town’s budget proposal. The board’s unanimous approval brought the total General Government budget to nearly $20.1 million, up from the section’s budget last year of about $19.6 million.

The board placed a condition on $1 million of Nathaniel Witherell’s budget. The board must approve any use of the money before it is released. Pellegrino called the measure, a “safeguard” so the facility’s management would “simply not have a checkbook against the general fund.”

An amendment was made for a $155,000 evaluation study of the public safety department's radio system, as requested by the selectman’s office. “The provider of [the system] essentially shared with us they will no longer support the service going forward,” said Pellegrino. “For that reason we need to evaluate and study what is the new system to be put in place.”

Mason said the upgrade is “rather expensive” but added, “This will bring us a better product, hopefully, in the end.”

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