If the measure of intelligence is the extent to which someone agrees with you, then Bob's opinion column in today's Greenwich Time demonstrates his genius.
Build the school. Build the school. Build the school.
That’s the still-faint but growing chorus from people who think the town should plow ahead with construction of the super-sized New Lebanon Elementary School without waiting to find out if the state will reimburse $23 million of the $34 million construction costs.
While [Rep. Steve] Bocchino is rehearsing his pro-build choir, Greenwich Public Schools keeps releasing data proving that the planned new building is not only too large, there is no need for a new building at all. Latest enrollment projections for the coming school year show that the town’s 11 elementary schools will have almost 1,000 empty seats this coming school year.
The New Lebanon facility on the drawing board provides three classrooms for each grade, kindergarten through fifth. But the enrollments at New Lebanon for this year barely support two classrooms each for grades K-3. The fourth and fifth grades need three classrooms, but as those kids graduate, the classes coming up behind them will need less space. So, it is highly likely that, if the new school is built as planned, it will have at least six extra classrooms. Maybe Bocchino can use one for choir practice.
If or when the new school comes on line, there will be somewhere between 1,150 and 1,200 empty elementary school seats district wide. That will put tremendous political pressure on the BET, which is already facing fury from voters who think the town’s finance board has not been tight enough with tax dollars. How foolish will it look to have spent $34 million now only to close one or two schools in several years?
The shame of all this political posturing is that the kids in New Lebanon need a new building. The current building does not have such common instructional spaces as a band room or a proper sized cafeteria. Kindergarten classes were moved off campus in September 2014. By all rights, New Lebanon School kids would be starting school in a few days in a fully renovated, state-of-the-art educational facility. But no, those forces aligned behind a too-large building that is getting more and more expensive with each passing day.
But it has served one purpose, and that is to expose the Greenwich state legislative delegation as fair-weather expense cutters. Not a week goes by without one of them saying that the state is on the edge of bankruptcy. We are living on a credit card no one can afford to pay. They readily join the calls to “Starve the Beast” that is state spending. But when given a chance to say no to $23 million of un-needed state borrowing to support an unnecessary school, the all-Republican delegation lined up in support of more borrowing and more wasteful spending. As long as it is wasted in Greenwich, it is good with Greenwich Republicans. Turns out their commitment to sound fiscal management is a hoax.
Of course, considering that the town has already spent, or will soon spend, $15 million for a pool in Byram, and $45 million for the GHS music hall, Bocchino might be excused for demanding an extra $34 million for an unneeded school: someone has to keep the mil rate rising, and why shouldn't Byram be the one that benefits?