By Janet McMahon, District 8
Like many other families in town, my husband and I CHOSE to buy a home in Greenwich because we wanted to ensure that our children had access to a quality public school education.
We heard that Greenwich had low property taxes as well, but public education was, and always will be, our #1 priority. Both my husband and I are products of K-12 public schools ourselves and we wanted this for our children.
Little did we know that for almost a decade, the BET quietly started putting the Board of Education on a starvation diet. Beginning in FY2012, the BET mandated that the BOE was not to exceed a 2% increase in their Operating expenses, knowing full well that its contractual obligations and fixed costs were well above 2% every year. Thus, in order to meet these austere BET guidelines, the BOE has had to sustain cuts year after year, until finally, these compounded cuts have brought us to where we are now – a woefully underfunded budget with a $1.5M shortfall in Special Education and about 90% of our Operating budget going toward contractual obligations and fixed costs. We simply have no more fat to cut except our teachers.
All things do eventually reach a breaking point and our breaking point came in the form of a pandemic. But instead of investing in our schools, the BET decided to double down and CUT $3M from the Operating Budget, all while using this pandemic as a convenient scapegoat to starve the BOE budget further.
The BET deceptively sold us a tax cut narrative. They told us that the average homeowner could save around $116 a year in property taxes if only teachers took a salary freeze. They told us “We’re all in this together, It’s only fair.” Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not. It is NOT fair, nor is it LEGAL, to extort contractually obligated salary increases from teachers and threaten layoffs for non-compliance. It is NOT fair that OUR hard-earned tax dollars go into the Town’s Rainy Day Fund year after year but doesn’t go back to OUR schools. It is NOT fair that our town has been actively divesting from our public schools for almost a decade – most of which were GOOD economic years by the way. It is NOT fair to force our teachers and our children to bear the burden of a nominal tax cut. And it is NOT fair that our collective voices as parents, stakeholders AND taxpayers have been repeatedly dismissed and silenced by the BET.
We never asked for this tax cut. In fact, 3000 of us actually signed a petition telling the BET that we would happily pay the same taxes we paid last year rather than drastically upend our public schools.
-31 cents a day is not worth laying off dozens of our wonderful teachers and staff, many of whom are also our neighbors.
-31 cents a day is not worth the long-lasting and negative impacts to our children’s education.
-31 cents a day is not worth damaging our reputation as a premier school district.
-31 cents a day is just not worth jeopardizing our property values over.
Janet McMahon, co-author of the Sense of the Meeting Resolution on Education, wears many hats. But her most important hat will always be that of a mother of 2 wonderful children who both go to Greenwich Public Schools.