Friday, March 17, 2000
Budget solutions hit facilities use, student services
Groans seemed to be the response of everyone present, the administrative team, curriculum coordinators and teachers, when Carlisle School Business Manager Eileen Riley presented solutions to maintaining the funding for the school's "level service" budget. Riley said she hopes "to spread the impact evenly and avoid affecting direct educational services to students." The gap between the amount reached in the school's compromise with the Carlisle Finance Committee and selectmen is approximately $60,000.
When the total sum of the school budget is held to single-digit or single-percentage-point increases the school administration has difficulties. Much of the school's budget is tied up in contractual obligations such as the bus contract, the teacher salary contract, cost of living increases and expenses necessary to cover additional enrollment from families new to town.
As explained by Riley, to meet the school's needs, the selectmen and the finance committee have agreed to transfer $120,000 from the town's free cash account and to earmark for the school $80,000 which would come from an override to be voted on at Town Meeting. These actions help to bridge the gap, but the school needs an additional $58,500 to sustain its present program.
The Carlisle School Committee's concern about maintaining its "level service budget" had directed Riley again to review the school budget and all funding sources. At the March 7 school committee meeting, Riley reported her findings and listed some sources for additional funds to help make up the difference:
Activity fee: Approximately 200 students are involved in such activities as math league, intramural games and the yearbook. If each were charged $25, an additional $5,000 of revenue would be realized.
Band fee: If each member of the senior band is charged $75 and each member of the junior band is charged $50, $8,800 would be raised.
Facility use fee: Another $8,000 would be realized if fees are increased for the Savoyards, the users of the gym in the town's recreation programs, and the seventh-grade play rehearsals.
Bus fee: State law requires that the school and town provide busing for the students in kindergarten through sixth grade. There is no legal obligation to provide busing within a 2-mile radius of the school. Charging a fee for those students not covered by state law would bring in an additional $16,275.
Reduce support positions: An additional $22,077 could be realized by reducing the employment hours of cafeteria personnel and the office, clerical and technical support staff.
Riley felt that increasing the athletic fee from $130 to $150 would not be one she would recommend. She concluded that there would be a cap for families with several students in the school or for families who would find the additional expenses a financial hardship. Riley said,"We all have to tighten up a bit. The goal is not to reduce educational services. We will pursue every avenue or grant including the Carlisle Education Foundation"
The bus service fees provoked a great deal of discussion. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said, "We have projected a 7 percent increase for the next bus contract, but I do not know what will happen with the new contract, especially with the elevation of fuel prices." CSC member Harry Crowther commented, "I have no support for the bus fees. I would not dream of having my kid walk to school in this town." Fox-Melanson agreed that everyone really should be bused in Carlisle.
CSC member Suzanne Whitney- Smith wondered about a charge to ride the bus. She said she hated to charge fees for curriculum such as the band. "Maybe there should be an activity fee for each child."
CSC member Paul Morrison thought the fees charged for the use of school facilities (the rooms, stage and gym) were too low and maybe more income could be generated from user fees. He also said it was not the time to reduce the hours for support services. Morrison concluded, "We need to look for equity here. There are a lot of people in town who have no children in the school. Maybe it feels more reasonable if the people with children in the school pay a little more of their share."
Chair David Dockterman wondered whether "this could come out in Town Meeting when numbers are brought up that school families are paying more for their children to attend the school." CSC member Cindy Nock revisited the idea of a general activity fee. Fox-Melanson clarified it would cover the students in the middle school which has about 250 families. It was Riley who wondered whether it was legal to have fees for programs supporting public education. Whitney-Smith felt that a general fee would have to have a "well-explained basis." Crowther commented that in Concord fees were "voluntary" and the money never materialized. "We need to raise money. We don't want to deny activities."
School parent Christy Barby commented that when one charges fees it is important to look at the language. Is the money going for the activity or is it being applied to the general need for support of programs? Amy Mestancik, another school parent in the audience, reminded those at the meeting that many parents spend a great deal of money on sports and classes outside of school programs.
The next school committee meeting is on Tuesday, March 21. The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee meeting will be held in Carlisle on March 28.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito