Friday, November 12, 1999
FinCom fears tight '01 budget
Last week the town received good news in the form of telephoned assurances from the state Department of Revenue on the day of Special Town Meeting that the town's free cash had been certified at $823,512. This allowed a Town Meeting vote to balance the budget for the current fiscal year by transferring $189,043 from these funds. Nonetheless, as finance committee chair Tony Allison put it, the good news merely "moves the FY01 [next year's] budget from the grim to the tight category."
FinCom members reviewed early FY01 revenue estimates at their October 26 meeting (before the amount of free cash available was known). According to these calculations, the amount left in free cash after the transfer to cover the FY00 deficit will not allow the preliminary 3-percent guideline for budget increases most town departments have come to expect.
$487K in new revenue
FinCom estimates the additional revenues available to pay for any increases without overrides as follows:
2 1/2% of FY00 $255,531
"New growth" $231,806
Total new revenue $487,337
However, Carlisle's share of enrollment at Concord-Carlisle High School has risen nearly ten percent this year. Thus, high school officials have warned FinCom to expect an increase of at least $181,430 in the town's CCHS assessment for next year. (This amount could be higher, depending on what budget increases school officials negotiate with the Concord FinCom.) Deducting the anticipated high school increase from the predicted new revenues would leave only $308,512 available for increases for all other town departments, including the Carlisle School.
Moreover, FinCom has tried in recent years to allow increases in the Carlisle Public School's budget to match increases in enrollment and in certain special education expenses. So FinCom members discussed possible rises for the elementary budget of seven to ten percent. School increases have, in fact, been much higher in recent years, with last year's at nearly 13 percent. At a cost between about $400,000 for a seven- percent increase for the school and about $577,000 for 10 percent, virtually nothing would be available for any other town departments.
Other budget "hits" expected
Further, FinCom anticipates other inevitable operating budget increases for next year, plus operating increases for the new library building, possible costs for litigation about the athletic fields and additional costs for the cleanup of toxicity at the department of public works and police station.
Flat guidelines possible
The revenue can be supplemented with a transfer from free cash, but not much is available from that source, with just $634,469 available after the recently voted transfer. (always, FinCom has aimed to retain $500,000 in free cash as the town's emergency reserve.)
Given an apparent deficit, members voiced concern about issuing a preliminary guideline for town departments, that might in the end prove higher than available funds would permit. No decision was reached at the October 26 meeting, with Allison promising to compose a "red flag letter" alerting town departments to the possibility there would be no increase next year.
The Mosquito learned from Allison and FinCom member David Ives that, since the October 26 meeting, committee members have been exploring several options for preliminary guidelines that would permit modest increases for both town departments and schools, primarily by reducing capital expenses and free cash below the targeted $500,000 level.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito