Spending like there’s no tomorrow

The RTM Finance Committee has calculated that, in inflation adjusted dollars, Greenwich is spending twice as much as it did in 1970, despite the population remaining the same.

Some of the increases can be figured out The number of firemen doubled, for instance, but in 1970 we had a large number of volunteers. Those guys have gradually dropped out and paid firemen replaced them.

But, again in inflation adjusted dollars, we were spending $5,000 per student in 1970 and $18,000 today. I was one of those $5,000 bargain students and my kids enjoyed the $18,000. So far as I can tell, I received a better education. So what’s that about?

Etc. Obviously, pension and health care expenses are way up over the past 40 years, but I’d bet there’s some room in our budget to cut some items. The new high school auditorium comes to mind.


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8 responses to “Spending like there’s no tomorrow

  1. Peg

    “But, again in inflation adjusted dollars, we were spending $5,000 per student in 1970 and $18,000 today. I was one of those $5,000 bargain students and my kids enjoyed the $18,000. So far as I can tell, I received a better education. So what’s that about?”

    I think I may know what that’s about. It’s about having a more rigorous curriculum in 1970. It’s about holding students responsible for their actions back then – expecting them to generally follow the rules, do homework, show up on time, etc. etc. It’s about parents not making excuses for every little thing their sweetie pie does wrong – including pretty big and awful things.

    It’s about appreciating that all the technological marvels of today can’t replace old fashioned studying and working hard at learning.

    It’s also about having a helluva lot more administrators around than when we were kids, Chris. Lord knows what they all do to get their overweighted paychecks.

  2. CatoRenasci

    It wasn’t the Finance Committee who did the study, but it was Lucia Jansen of District 7. We spent over an hour on it at the September Finance Committee meeting.

    The study raises questions, it does not answer them. There may be some good reasons why we spend more on some things in real dollars, but the most important things the report makes clear (without saying so) are that (1) our sense of having been fiscally responsible over the past 40 years with small mill rate increases is illusory, and (2) our personnel costs are completely out of control.

    The problem will not be solved purely in Greenwich – as long as we have to bargain with employee unions under the threat of forced arbitration.

    Ultimately, the education budget is probably the place the biggest changes will need to be made, although every department probably needs significant cuts.

    The most important thing at this point is for the RTM to develop a zero increase philosophy — there will be no automatic increase in taxes or spending — and if costs go up (e.g. teacher pay) we’ll simply buy less to keep spending constant.

    It won’t be easy, and there will be service cuts, but in the long run, it is the only solution.

    Citizens should understand where their money goes in the town budget, and should (through the RTM) be able to tell our elected and hired managers where we want to spend money and where we not just don’t want to, but WON’T.

    • Cato, back in the 80’s I was an alternate member of the RTM “Cost Containment Committee”, formed because so many of us saw this happening and knew where it was going. We eventually disbanded (or I think we did – I left the RTM after two ineffective terms) because every single suggestion we proposed for cutting a service or a department’s budget was met with fierce opposition from vocal defenders. This was the beginning of the fat cat era, and we kept hearing, “raise my taxes but don’t cut ….”. Maybe the RTM will have more success this time. I hope so.

  3. CatoRenasci

    You mentioned the new auditorium. I’m all in favor of it, and think it should be a high priority.

    BUT, I think it should come out of the school budget. IF it’s so needed (and I think it is, but my kids were musicians), then the schools can do without something else over the several years it will take to build it.

  4. Burning Madolf

    The education industrial complex.
    So many people who want to teach but not in a classroom.
    How many bureaucrats are in your town’s school system (titles vary by town)? Super, Asst. Super, Directors of EVERYTHING, Principals, Asst. Principals, Business Manager, Administrator for Pupil Services, Curriculum Directors, etc. and all the support staff that goes with them.
    It’s a miracle if there’s enough money left over for classes.

  5. pulled up in OG

    1970 – 11,042 students – 726 teachers

    2010 – 8,878 students – 1052 teachers

  6. FedUp

    Does anyone know what impact — in terms of teachers and/or dollars — the federal and state laws mandating Special Ed Services, and English Language Learner Services, are having? The first IDEA law was 1976; the second one, 1990. In between came federal and/or state mandates for students who don’t speak English, requiring services for them (as opposed to simply placing them in an English language classroom and seeing what happens).

    Both these areas are expensive, as well as labor intensive, requiring additional staff and lots of compliance-type paperwork. What’s sad is that one would expect that all those extra resources would buy more children a better education. But it doesn’t necessarily work out that way.

  7. Georgie in Greenwich

    Its time to speak out….get out from the blogs and let our voices be heard to town leaders!

    $156 million to $378million (inflation adjusted) is a whole lotta spending for a town where the population has remained constant. The trend clearly shows that we are on an unsustainable path and risk attracting new, young families or keeping the ones we’ve got with this tax and spend philosophy.