Board of Finance.
Board of Finance.

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — The Board of Finance on Wednesday briefly discussed the plan to rebuild Long Lots Elementary School, and its implications for town finances.

The finance board is waiting for an appropriation request from the Long Lots School Building Committee to proceed with the next step, funding the design of a new school that committee recommended replace the existing seven-decade -old structure, rather than renovate the existing structure.

Member Brian Stern is the board’s liaison with other town bodies and gave an update.

“We’d have to be tone deaf not to know that this is an important issue to the pre-K folks at Stepping Stones, to the elementary students now and the future students of Long Lots to the ball players to the gardeners and neighbors, and I may have forgotten a stakeholder but those are the ones that we’ve been listening to attentively,” Stern said. “And not just Board of Finance meetings but other meetings, too.”

“Taxpayers,” member Sheri Gordon chimed in.

“And taxpayers,” Stern said, “You’ve got my notes.”

Brian Stern.
Brian Stern

Stern continued with a warning, sounding something like the ghost of budgets yet to come.

“The project itself on the current basis will double the town’s debt when complete,” he said. “Which will be about another $9 million of debt service based on old interest rates and who knows what it will be, about a 3.6 percent increase in taxes for this alone, excluding any impact of increased interest rates.”

“And that’s why, on the Board of Finance I think you’ll see us being deliberate and thorough,” Stern said. “We want to get this one right.”

“And I think it’s also important to understand that the questions we ask are not to be negative, but to be professionable, knowledgeable, complete and accurate,” Stern said.

“Our questions may seem we’re sort of against the project or whatever, people may infer things from that, but that’s not the case,” Stern said. “We’re really trying to make sure we understand the whole thing.”

Stern noted the finance board does not have an appropriation request yet, but one is expected in the next few weeks. He said the board hopes to have three sessions to discuss that.

“Rushed decisions are usually regretted,” Stern said. “So let’s get this one right.”

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 35 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.