Friday, March 26, 1999
School committee says let voters decide on level of funding
The Carlisle School Committee hopes that the selectmen will allow voters the opportunity to decide on a three-tiered override question at the annual town election this spring. The selectmen have been considering placing one or more override questions on the ballot to help fund the operating budgets of several town departments. The school committee, at their March 16 meeting, discussed their budget proposals and the recommendations they would make to the selectmen at a joint meeting scheduled on March 18.
The finance committee's guideline budget for the Carlisle Public School is $54,000 short of what the school department feels is needed to maintain "level services" for the fiscal year 2000. The school's proposed level service budget of $5,704,897 is an increase of 11.5 percent above last year. It includes increases for a 5 percent enrollment increase, a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase, contractual obligations, mandated services, and items currently funded by non-renewable grants. In this context, "level service" means that the school's programs and structure go forward as they are now. The school committee hopes that a first level of override will include the $54,000 for level services and that the town will approve it.
Beyond the level service budget, the school also has a list of additional system needs that would expand the school program slightly. This list includes educational equipment, such as audio-visual, the addition of a half-time choral music teacher, a half-time foreign language teacher, and $25,000 for campus maintenance and improvements. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson noted that the maintenance budget for things like painting and landscape had been zeroed out of the budget some time ago, but the maintenance cannot continue to be deferred forever, so the school would like funding returned to the operating budget. The price tag for all of these items totals $66,500. The school committee strongly supports these items and hopes that they will be included in the second tier of an override.
Lastly, there is a list of what the school refers to as unmet needs. These are items which were removed from the budget in 1990field trips, athletic program subsidy, facility use subsidy and eighth-grade graduation. They also include a recently identified need that has not been funded, that is, indoor air quality training and support. The school committee has put this list before the FinCom for the past several years, but because these are the lowest priority of needs, they have remained unfunded. This year the CSC would like the selectmen to put the $53,500 that would be needed to fund these items into a third tier of an override. Even if the FinCom and selectmen do not support funding the unmet needs, the CSC would like to let the voters have a direct say.
Chair David Dockterman said, "the bottom line is to let the voters decide what they want." That is the message that school committee members have been hearing, he added.
The CSC also reviewed their long-term capital expenditures request. There will be a Warrant article at Town Meeting requesting $153,200, which is partially reimbursable by the state, for replacing two rooftop heating-ventilation units on the Robbins Building that are 30 years old and no longer functioning adequately. This also includes screens for the Robbins and Wilkins Buildings and window and hardware replacements in Robbins. The long-term capital requirements committee (LTCRC) has voted to recommend this request at Town Meeting.
Other items on the list that were approved by the LTCRC include waste pipe and water pipe repairs, exterior painting, boiler repairs, and gym and locker room refurbishing. These items add up to $77,544, but the amount that will actually be funded will depend on the structuring and result of the override votes.
Another item needed by the school is $10,000 for modifications to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act required for a student who is now on campus. The funding for this should come from the town's ADA account rather than the school budget, school business manager Eileen Riley said. Town administrator David DeManche is the ADA officer and it is the town's responsibility to provide the funds, she said. Currently there is not enough in the account so a Warrant article will be needed for this as well.
As a footnote, Riley reported that the current school year budget is right on target with no overruns at this time.
"the bottom line is to let the voters decide what they want."
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito