Friday, February 11, 2000
Finance committee reviews tax impact of debt and FY01 requests
Both the finance committee and the board of selectmen expressed concern about the impact of any new town spending on taxes, given this year's 14 percent leap in the tax rate. At their February 2 meeting, the finance committee calculated more precisely what the actual tax increases would be under the guideline budget, with no override.
Debt payments rise less than feared
FinCom members have agreed that this June the town should bond all four projects already approved but not yet bondedthe Gleason Library renovation, Wang-Coombs land acquisition, school air quality project and fire truck. (Short-term borrowing routinely provides temporary funding while projects are in construction or when the actual final cost is unknown.)
Assuming that anticipated new payments totalling $507,930 would be added to the current payments, the committee had feared a large tax rate increase. (The estimated payments for each project may be found in Table 1.) However, at the February 2 meeting, using figures supplied by treasurer Nancy Koerner, FinCom recalculated the actual change in debt payments as about $213,000, or less than 2 percent of FY00 property taxes.
A decline in debt payments of nearly $300,000 will temper the effect of the new bonding. (Details on these reductions, from state reimbursement for expenses for school renovation and routine reductions in long-term and short-term payments, may be found in Table 2 on this page.)
Long-term debt payments for approved projects (Wang-Coombs land, library renovation, school air quality, and fire truck $507,930
Net decline in payments for existing debt (295,010) Net change-debt payments 212,920
This increase would result in a rise of about 1.8 percent in this year's tax rate.
Guideline budget would increase tax rate 4 percent
At the February 2 meeting, the FinCom also attempted to calculate more precisely how much the guideline operating budget, without overrides, would contribute to next year's tax rate. Proposition 2-1/2 allows an automatic increase in the maximum taxes a town can collect of 2.5 percent of operating expenses, or $255,531 for Carlisle in FY01. The increase of $255,531 would result in an increase of a 2.5 percent, Bilotta said. In addition, FinCom has projected that an additional $231,806 may be collected based on "new growth," the increase in property value based on new construction, additions, and other renovations.
Newly discovered revenues reduce potential deficit
Total budget requests over the "balanced budget" guideline currently run over $660,000about $259,000 for the K-8 school and $232,000 for the high school, $120,000 for the library, and the balance for public safety and recreation.
FinCom also considered how to allocate about $200,000 in revenues not yet included in the expense budget, consisting of about $70,000 not included in guideline budgets, $107,000 in new state aid to education and over $20,000 in estimated lottery income. These new revenues would reduce the potential override to about $460,000, and town officials must soon decide which of the budget requests will be funded by an override and which will be included in the guideline budget.
Two-town meeting possible
Carlisle could face formidable consequences if the town approves an assessment for Concord-Carlisle High School lower than that approved by the town of Concord.
Nonetheless, FinCom member Tom Bilotta argued that the committee should not assign the entire $200,000 in newly identified revenues to the high school budget request. A significant portion of this year's increase must be included in an override vote to get the town to understand that CCHS is a "budget buster," Bilotta said. The FinCom should tell Concord they will only support the lower of the Concord FinCom's two guidelines (the "no-override," 7.4 percent increase in the high school budget), he declared. "We're willing to go to a two-Town Meeting," he added, with members Charlie Parker and Simon Platt in agreement.
Other bargaining positions
Currently, the FinCom plans to recommend a FY01 transfer of about $135,000 for operating spending. If current estimates are correct, this would leave a balance of about $500,000 in free cash. Bilotta and Parker stated again what they would require in concessions from other town officials before recommending that more funds be transferred from free cash.
· Both schools and the library should cut their budget requests enough to reduce the level of any potential override to $200-250,000; Parker suggested $50,000 each.
· Bilotta would also require a commitment from the selectmen that at least half of any proceeds from the sale of town property go into a stabilization fund for transfer by voters to meet emergency needs.
· FinCom should "insist" on only one override question, not several tiers as last year, Bilotta added.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito