Friday, February 11, 2000
Budget talks turn to overrides
The name of the game was "override management" when the selectmen met with finance committee chair Tony Allison on February 1 to discuss progress on the FY01 budget.
After reviewing all of the major town departments, including the schools, Allison estimated that the budget is close to $500,000 over guidelines, considering potential new sources of revenue. With a highly speculative reduction in the town's allocation of the Concord-Carlisle High School budget, a significant decrease in the Carlisle Public School budget and further "tweakings" to other town departments, Allison's best case scenario was an override in the range of $250,000 to $300,000. Even so, this level of override would include some transfer from free cash.
The big question for the selectmen was how the current projections will impact the tax rate. Allison said that a no-override budget would mean a 4 to5 percent increase in the tax rate, although this is dependent on how many of the town's previously approved long-term debt projects (such as Wang-Coombs and the library) will be bonded this year, a decision yet to be made. Allison made no estimate of what an override budget would mean for the tax rate, but that didn't stop the selectmen from making their own calculations that the rate could well be in the double digits.
"We need to take a broader look," said selectman Michael Fitzgerald, urging that the board consider spreading the increase over a longer period. With the current trend, said selectman John Ballantine, "We could have a 50 percent increase in taxes over the next three years." Board chair Doug Stevenson said, "We need to have fiscal discipline this year regardless of the future." Fitzgerald hoped that the board could at least look at two years together. Recognizing that some townspeople are on fixed incomes, he continued, "We're forcing some people out of town." Allison agreed. With the proper perspective of a FinCom chair, he concluded, "Let's keep it affordable for everyone."
In the end, Allison asked the selectmen to identify an acceptable increase in the tax rate and the FinCom would aim to keep the budget within that range. Stevenson suggested between 6 and 8 percent. In keeping with the financial team schedule, the budget must be finalized by March 20.
On February 1, the selectmen also opened the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting to be held on May 2. The Warrant will remain open for approximately three weeks. Anyone interested in placing an item on the Warrant should do so within this time period in writing. The board advised that, if the exact language of the Warrant item is not known by the deadline, a written request may be made for a placeholder with a description of the concept. The town election is scheduled for May 9.
Town administrator search
Twenty-five applications have been received for the town administrator position, and the search committee is "very enthusiastic" about some of them, said Stevenson. The board had originally been doubtful about the quality of the applicants, given the time of year and the trouble finding qualified candidates in the past. The selectmen also finalized the job description of the town administrator, which specifically includes financial oversight. Interviews are underway and the board speculated that an offer could be made by the end of the month.
The selectmen reappointed the following members to the conservation restriction advisory committee: Sarah Brophy, James C. Davis, Jr., Eunice D. Knight, Sylvia Willard, Tara Hengeveld, and Steve Tobin. There remains one vacancy and the selectmen suggested that the vacancy be filled by a lawyer. Anyone interested in serving on the committee should contact the selectmen.
To fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Peter Morey, the selectmen appointed Sally Lakness as animal inspector. Morey had served in the position for nearly 30 years. Lakness brings to the position a familiarity with dogs and horses, having run a kennel, bred show dogs and raised and cared for several horses. Lakness is also experienced with barn management. "Animals are my calling," Lakness wrote in her application to the selectmen, "and I feel it is my duty to help them continue to be a wonderful part of our world."
Small increases in the ambulance rates were approved, based on the increased Medicare reimbursement rate. The changes will result in additional revenues of approximately $2,000.
Regarding the proposed well field by the Chelmsford Water District which could have a deleterious effect on operations at the Carlisle Cranberry Bog, selectman John Ballantine reported that the Chelmsford Conservation Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are aware of Carlisle's concerns. He said the process will go forward, taking into account those concerns. Carlisle officials will be meeting with DEP on this issue.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito