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News Highlights in Town

It was all about the money - budgets, that is.

Here’s a recap of the top stories making headlines for week of March 27 to April 2:

It all started Monday night when Gov. Dannel Malloy brought his budget barnstorming town hall-style meeting series to the Eastern Middle School and continued with the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

On Monday night, Malloy and his entourage – including Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman – came to the middle school in Riverside and played to a standing room only crowd of nearly 600 that was decidedly against his proposed budget. Malloy seemed to give his best efforts to sway the crowd, comprised of town residents, dozens of local elected officials, and a large contingent of Greenwich Hospital employees and physicians.

Greenwich Hospital officials including Dr. Dickerman Hollister, chief of oncology, chastised Malloy for his proposed hospital tax and elimination of funding for uncompensated care. Greenwich Hospital stands to lose up to $13 million if Malloy’s proposed fiscal plan is approved.  Facing a $3.5 billion budget shortfall, Malloy has proposed a budget that includes higher sales and income taxes, $1 billion in state employee concessions, and the hospital tax.

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Budgets continued to dominate the week in Greenwich as the Board of Estimate and Taxation wrapped up its annual budget process.

On Tuesday, an overflow crowd filled both the Town Hall Meeting Room and the Cone Room of Town Hall, to speak their minds on the proposed $357 million budget.

The first hour of the 4-hour, 19-minute meeting – which featured 75 speakers who each were allotted three minutes at the podium - was devoted to MISA, the $28.8 million Music Instruction Space and Auditorium project for Greenwich High School.

The board - with Democrat Nancy Barton absent – listened to impassioned pleas and reasons why various project should be funded. Speakers covered topics from MISA to the reconstruction of the Central Fire Station, replacing the leaking roof of the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center and building a firehouse on King Street in northwestern Greenwich.

They took it all under consideration with a vote pending two nights later.

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The culmination of the budget process came Thursday night when the Board of Estimate and Taxation met to vote on the budget.

In an 11th-hour compromise, First Selectman Peter Tesei proposed the BET fund the first stage of the Music Instruction Space and Auditorium project for Greenwich High School to the tune of $17 million. That portion of the project would be construction of a new 1,125-seat auditorium that would include improve acoustics, HVAC, include an orchestra pit, and set and scene construction and storage space. The compromise also includes funding the construction of temporary headquarters for the Central Fire Station staff and one engine at the Horseneck Lane commuter parking lot with an allocation of $1,225,000.  Actual construction of a new station at the current Havemeyer Place firehouse was bumped back to the 2013-14 fiscal year. Fire Chief Peter Siecienski said he was happy the compromise will mean firefighters can move out of the health- and safety issue-plagued headquarters before the end of the year.

In the end, Greenwich’s fiscal board approved a total budget of $345,515,524 – which includes the town’s operating budget, the Board of Education and Capital Improvement Projects budgets. The proposed budget now will be scrutinized by the 230-member Representative Town Meeting which will, by town charter, vote on it at its May meeting. Once the RTM votes on the budget, the BET will set the town’s mill rate by the end of May. It is expected that the town’s current 8.596 mills per $1,000 of assessment will increase by 2.87 percent. The town’s assessment is based upon 70 percent of market value.

 

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