Friday, March 3, 2000
Budget balanced with more revenue, some concessions, expected override
At their February 23 meeting, the Carlisle Finance Committee voted new budget guidelines for FY01, which were to be reviewed with the board of selectmen on March 2 and distributed to town departments on March 3.
The new guidelines follow negotiations with Carlisle Public School and Gleason Library over cuts in requested increases, and pleas by several town officials to Concord FinCom and Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee to reduce Carlisle's assessment for the high school operating budget. The table on this page summarizes the results of this process, showing FinCom's decisions about how much to support within the budget, how much to put on an override and how much was cut from departments' budgets.
The arrangement assumes a Prop. 2-1/2 override of $250,000-300,000 to support "level-service" for public safety, both schools and the library.
At the FinCom's request, both the Carlisle School and the Gleason Library have reduced their proposed budgets by about $59,000 and $49,000, respectively. The school will make up the difference through "revenue enhancement," seeking grants for additional funds, representatives have told FinCom and selectmen. Gleason Library Trustees presented a budget that will open the new building the current 54 hours a week rather than the 62 originally proposed.
To help close the gap, FinCom raised its estimate of FY01 state aid by $130,000; promised to recommend the transfer of an additional $150,000 from the town's free cash, potentially reducing the level available to $350,000; and discovered errors in estimated revenues and expenses calculated this fall amounting to an additional $70,000. Most of this additional $350,000 has been assigned to the two schools, Gleason Library and public safety budgets, as shown in the table.
FinCom's strategy to resolve the difference of over $232,000 between Carlisle FinCom's 9-percent guideline and the CCHS proposal is based on the hope that the Regional School Committee will also lower their request. Town officials have asked the RSC to cut the budget to the Concord FinCom's no-override guideline of $2,718,330 (excluding debt payments). This would increase Carlisle's operating assessment by 17.3 percent, rather than the 19 percent rise originally requested, meaning the town would pay about $39,000 less.
To make up the remaining difference of $193,000, Carlisle FinCom voted on February 23 to increase the CCHS guideline by $101,000, with the balance of $92,000 to be funded by a Proposition 2-1/2 override.
Under this plan, depending on ballot results, the towns of Carlisle and Concord may well approve different high school budgets. Concord voters could approve an override for the the high school, or Carlisle voters might reject an override, leaving a difference of $39,000 or $92,000, respectively. If in the end Concord approves a higher level than Carlisle, FinCom member Tom Bilotta believes that the RSC will lower the budget to avoid a two-Town Meeting.
FinCom and selectmen expect about $70,000 in additional requests, including salary increases for town employees based on a wage study currently underway, a water resources study on the O'Rourke Farm, planning funds for affordable housing and a further budget increase for ConsCom. FinCom has reserved $34,000 for these items in the no-override budget. However, additional costs, unkown at this time, might be included in the override.
Also adding to the FY01 tax rate but not included in these calculations will be the approximately $25,000 cost for the first of five years bonding for a new truck.
At the February 23 meeting, FinCom members also discussed their concerns about accounting problems in the town offices which have led members to contact the town's auditor for advice on whether there are "better ways to handle the town's finances."
This year, there has been an extraordinary delay in formal notification by the Department of Revenue (DOR) as to the amount of free cash the town has available for appropriation. According to a spokesperson for the DOR contacted by the Mosquito on February 21, the reason for the delay in notice was that "the letter was lost, or was never sent." However, FinCom member Simon Platt indicated that his conversation with the town's auditor suggested that the delay was related to the state's disapproval of the town's methods of accounting for long- and short-term debt. According to the auditor, this will be simple to correct.
FinCom member Charlie Parker also mentioned delays in the town's accounting for local receipts. The chair of the selectmen should "oversee what's going on," while awaiting a new town administrator, Parker said.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito