A Brief Introduction to the Town’s Government
Anyone who wonders how it is possible for Greenwich to have such low taxes and such fine services, need only check out the organization of the town’s government.
Unlike many towns and cities, there is a great feeling of community here. Greenwich is run primarily by volunteers, not politicians. The town is governed by a Board of Selectmen (one full time and two part time) who are elected every two years. Although town departments are staffed by paid professionals, except for the Selectmen, all town boards (such as the Board of Estimate and Taxation, which serves as the town’s comptroller) and the Representative Town Meeting (the town’s legislative arm) are made up of unpaid citizen volunteers. This volunteer network supports and supplements the work of town departments and gives the town its unique cultural and social values. Because many of these citizen volunteers are often quite successful in business and other careers, the town is run efficiently, honestly, conservatively and in the interest of its citizens. How many towns can you say this about?
Much of what a citizen would want to know about Greenwich is available on the excellent town web site, https://www.greenwichct.gov.
The main components of the town’s decentralized government are: Board of Selectmen, Board of Estimate and Taxation, the Independent Boards and the Representative Town Meeting.
The Board of Selectmen is composed of a full time First Selectman and two part time Selectmen. They are elected to serve for a term of two years. No more than two of the selectmen can be from the same party. The Fire, Police, Public Works, Purchasing, Parks & Recreation, Law Department and Human Relations report to the First Selectman.
It is interesting to note that the staff of the Finance Department is hired by and reports to the Board of Estimate and Taxation and not the First Selectman.
Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET)
Known as the BET, this group of 12 members, who are volunteers elected for a two year term, holds the town’s purse strings. They are responsible for the oversight of the town’s financial affairs; they prepare the town annual budget (now $294,000,000); and, subject to the approval of the RTM, they set the tax rate. The Town Committee of each party nominates a slate of six candidates. It is the policy of the BET to spend approximately $20,000,000 a year on capital improvements, not to borrow money and to allow real estate taxes to rise no more than 3% per year.
Representative Town Meeting (RTM)
Greenwich, like many New England towns, began by managing its affairs through a Town Meeting of all electors. The first recorded Town Meeting was held on February 5, 1664. By 1933, the town had grown so large that it had to abandon open town meetings and adopted the Representative Town Meeting (RTM),in which one person represented 100 voters. As the town grew, so did the RTM, whose size was eventually capped at 230 members, making it the largest legislature in the state.
The members of the RTM are elected every two years by the voters in each of the town’s 12 districts. Any registered voter in town may run as a candidate in his or her district. The RTM is non-partisan. Candidates run without party identification and serve without compensation. As a result, the composition of the RTM is very egalitarian.
Each RTM district elects a member as a delegate and an alternate to one of the standing committees, which oversee the operations of the Town’s departments. Delegates report the result of the meetings they attend at their district’s monthly meeting and then after a full discussion, the members vote at the monthly RTM meeting.
These meetings are open to the public and can be addressed by anyone who wishes to share their opinion. The RTM’s agenda, “The Call“, is online at https://www.greenwichct.gov/AgendaCenter/Representative-Town-Meeting-35. Any citizen who wishes to put an item on the “Call” can do so by giving the town clerk a petition signed by 20-voters.
The RTM reviews appointments to all of the appointed boards, all interim appropriations, labor contracts, municipal improvements, gifts to the town and, of course, the BET and Board of Education budgets.
The RTM is moderated by Thomas J. Byrne, 203.637.4307 (District 6), or in his absence by the Moderator Pro Tempore, Alexis Voulgaris, 203637.4112 (District 6) For a list of district representatives and RTM committees see: http://rtm.greenwich.org or https://www.greenwichct.gov/1465/RTM-Members
How to Run for the RTM
For details on the Town Meeting and how to become a member see www.greenwichct.org/government/rtm/
Any citizen of Greenwich, registered to vote, is eligible to serve on the RTM. By September 15th of election years, new candidates must file with the Town Clerk a petition signed by at least 25 registered voters of their home district. Petitions are available in August from the Town Clerk’s office or from the RTM website, http://rtm.greenwich.org
A map of the 12 RTM districts are available in the Clerk’s office or on https://www.greenwichct.gov/621/Map-of-Voting-Districts
RTM & District Meetings
Each District meets on either a Wednesday or Thursday before the full RTM. The RTM meets eight times a year in the auditorium of Central Middle School, usually on Monday at 8pm. The Agenda for the District Meeting and the RTM is “The Call”. RTM meeting dates and District meeting dates and locations are available at the Town Clerk’s office, or online at www.rtm.greenwich.org All RTM, District meetings and Town Board/Commission meetings are open to the public.
Putting an Issue on the RTM “CALL”
If you feel strongly about an issue in Town which you feel is not being addressed, gather 20 signatures of Greenwich registered voters and deliver it with your petition to the Town Clerk’s office in Town Hall. Your petition will be put on the RTM’s next “CALL”. Be sure to carefully define in your petition what action you want and bring a few articulate, concise speakers to support your cause.
RTM meeting and many BET, Selectmen and Board & Commission meetings are televised on cablevision Channel 79. See www.greenwichct.org/government/committees/greenwich_community_television
Town Boards and Commissions
There are a number of independent boards and commissions, which are completely volunteer and have great power in how the town runs: Alarm Appeals, Architectural Review, Board of Ethics, Board of Health, Building Code Board of Standards & Appeals, Commission on Aging, Condemnation Board, Conservation, Flood & Erosion Control, Historic District, Housing Authority, Inland Wetlands & Water Courses Agency, Nathaniel Witherell, Parks & Recreation, Planning & Zoning, Planning & Zoning Appeals and Social Services. Candidates are nominated by the Board of Selectmen, interviewed by the RTM Appointments Committee and one or more of the other standing RTM committees, and then voted on by the RTM during its monthly meeting.
For a list of town boards see TOWN BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
If you are interested in sharing your talents by serving on a committee or commission, contact a member of the Selectman’s Nomination Advisory Committee (SNAC), https://www.greenwichct.gov/719/Selectmens-Nominations-Advisory-Committe or self-nominate yourself by filling out the nomination form on the SNAC website above.
NOTE: Department office hours tend to change frequently, so be sure to check the hours before you go. For a list of Town Departments, Department Head and hours, go to https://www.greenwichct.gov/1442/Hours-for-Permitting-Departments
For a list of forms and Permits, see
• Assessor’s Office, 203.622.7885 | 1st floor, 8am – 4pm.
• Beach Card Office, 203.622.7814 | 1st floor, generally 8am – 3:45pm, April through November 15th.
• Building Department, 203.622.7754 | 2nd floor, Monday – Friday 7:30 am – 1pm
• Conservation Commission, 203.622.6461 | 2nd floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 3:30 pm. Call ahead to make an appointment to meet with a staff member.
• Geographic Information Department (Information Technology), 203.622.6448 | Basement, 8am – 4pm; print out on site or pick up large map on Friday.
• Health (Septic) Department, 203.622.6488 | 3rd floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm.
• Highway Division(Public Works) permits, 203.622.7766 | 2nd floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 3pm.
• Human Services Department, 203.622.3800 | 3rd floor, Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5pm, after hours by appointment.
• Parks & Recreation Department, 203.622.7814 | 2nd floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm.
• Planning & Zoning Department, 203.622.7894 | 2nd floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm. To meet with a planner, 9am – 12pm (weekdays except Wednesday).
• Probate Court, 203.622.7879 | 1st floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm (closes at noon on Fridays in July & August).
• Public Works (Sewer) Department, 203.618.3001, 203.622.7760 | 2nd floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm.
• Selectman’s Office, 203.622.7710 | 1st floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm, Call for appointment before you go.
• Tax Collector, 203.622.7891 | 1st floor, Monday – Friday 8am – 3:30pm.
You can search tax bills and pay most tax bills on line at https://www.mytaxbill.org/inet/bill/home.do?town=greenwich
• Town Clerk, 203.622.7897 | 1st floor, Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm.
• Voter Registration, 203.622.7889 | 1st floor, Monday-Friday 8am-4pm.
• Wetlands, 203.622.7736 | 2nd floor, 8am – 3:30pm. To meet with a compliance officer, weekdays 9am – noon. Call ahead for an appointment.