Friday, April 28, 2000
Warrant Articles for Town Meeting
The following Warrant article information was written by Dave Ives, Seba Gaines, Lee Milliken, Nancy Pierce, Cecile Sandwen, Phyllis Zinicola and Mary Hult.
Article 3 - Audit
The $15,000 requested covers expenses to audit the town's financial records.
Article 4 - Fund transfer
To cover costs for software to upgrade the town's computer systems (using hardware donated by EMC Corporation), the finance committee and selectmen had hoped to appropriate $10,000 from the Reserve Fund for the current fiscal year (FY00). At the time this issue was going to press, town officials were exploring whether sufficient funds would be available in the Reserve Fund to cover this additional appropriation after allowing for overages in other accounts.
Article 5 - Operating budget for FY01
The general government budget includes expenses for fiscal operations, general administration and the operation of appointed land use boards (ConsCom and Planning Board). The overall increase of 2.1 percent includes a 10.8-percent increase in salary and expenses for the town administrator and an additional 8.1 percent for the planning board. It is expected that application fees to be set by the planning board will cover at least part of their additional costs and allow additional clerical hours to manage anticipated applications for cell tower construction projects.
The overall increase of 7.1 percent for protection of persons and property includes an additional 8.4 percent for the police, 10.6 percent for fire, and 6.3 percent for inspectional services, and the elimination of the budget for animal control. The police, fire and ambulance departments had requested funds to allow salary increases for police officers, and payments for training meetings and other courses for auxiliary firefighters and emergency medical technicians. In allowing for increases, much higher than the guideline, the FinCom assumed reimbursement from the state of $33,438 for "Quinn bill" training expenses. Town officials have recently learned that this reimbursement may be lower than expected.
The increase for building inspection services covers salary increases, and is expected to be offset by increased revenues from fees (received as local receipts).
Board of Health
The increase of 2.8 percent will permit a 3 percent rise in salary for the board of health staff. At the FinCom budget hearing, BOH chair Steve Opolski criticized the inequity inherent in the town's policy on salary increases, which are tightly controlled by FinCom guidelines for some town employees, while contract negotiations permit larger increases to unionized police officers and teachers.
The modest increase of 1.4 percent in the budget for the department of public works includes a reduction of 7.8 percent in the road maintenance budget.
The reduction of 3 percent in funds for public assistance results from eliminating the town's small contribution to Eliot Community Mental Health Center ($1,953 this year), which serves very few Carlisle residents.
The final increases allowed in the FinCom's recommended budget, though significant, reflect much higher requests from the Carlisle School and Concord-Concord Regional School Committees. Those requests were then offset by a reduction of 13.5 percent in the town's assessment for the Minuteman Science-Technology High School and a compromise among the two school committees, Gleason Library trustees and the Carlisle and Concord FinComs. Since the schools and library reduced their requested budgets, the Carlisle FinCom then raised their guidelines, agreed to support an additional free cash transfer of $150,000 and overrides of $80,000 for the Carlisle School and $92,000 for CCHS to cover the higher costs
The Carlisle School Committee originally had requested a 10.5 percent increase to continue at the present level, mostly for increases in salaries for teachers, special education and other instructional, administrative and custodial salaries and for tuition and transportation costs for additional special education placements outside the school. If the operating override passes at the May 9 election, funds for operating expenses for the Carlisle School will rise by 9.5 percent.
If the override fails, the increase for CPS budget will be reduced to 8.1 percent. The Carlisle School Committee has not discussed what would be cut from their "level-services" budget, if the override fails. However, at the February budget hearing, they described likely cuts to meet the original 6 percent FinCom guideline. At that time, school officials said the school would probably have to eliminate teaching and aide positions, reduce office support, custodial staff and substitutes, reduce funding for supplies and foreign language, and establish fees for extracurricular activities and bus service for students living within two miles of the school. Officials now say that fees are likely even if the override passes.
Concord-Carlisle High School
As of last October, 37 (or 9.1 percent) more Carlisle students were attending the high school than the year before, raising the proportion of school expenses Carlisle has to pay from 24.32 percent this year to 26.53 percent for next year. (The amount that Concord and Carlisle each pay toward the high school expenses is determined in part by this "assessment ratio," which fluctuates yearly depending on the proportion of students from each town.) This rise in the assessment ratio was compounded by an increase of 8.3 percent in total enrollment at the high school, meaning that Carlisle will have to pay a greater proportion of higher costs to serve more students next year.
The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee originally proposed an operating budget (that is, with debt payments excluded) that would boost the total cost to run the school by 8.7 percent, but raise Carlisle's assessment (excluding debt payments), by 19 percent, or $440,700. If the operating budget override question passes, Carlisle's CCHS assessment will increase by 17.3 percent, in line with the Concord FinCom guideline; if the override fails, the appropriation will increase only 13.4 percent. The resulting difference between the Carlisle and Concord appropriations for the high school would have to be resolved by the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee, and could involve the first two-town Town Meeting in the school's history.
Carlisle's share of the CCRSD debt costs will rise by 4.2 percent even though total debt service payments will be lower, as a consequence of this year's increase in the "assessment ratio."
Norfolk Agricultural High School
The funding for Norfolk County Agricultural High School will cover tuition and some transportation costs to allow a student who recently moved to Carlisle to complete studies at that school. This expense is mandated by the state Department of Education, since local high schools do not offer a similar curriculum.
The Gleason Library's no-override budget of $271,302 would provide an increase of 15.5 percent for next year, not enough to maintain the current hours of service (54) in the new building, which will cost more to operate. If the operating budget override is approved, an additional $50,487 will be available to operate the new library building and for additional staffing. This increase, part of the FinCom's override compromise with the schools, will allow the library to open one more hour per week than this year (55 in total).
The recreation commission proposed a 3.7 percent budget increase to pay the expense of a recreation director and mowing services.
Pensions and benefits
The 18.6 percent increase covers rises in unemployment costs and increases in the town's share of payments for health insurance and Medicare. According to treasurer Nancy Koerner, even this may not be enough to cover the costs, as this year's budget is already 46 percent overspent.
The selectmen have voted to recommend that this spring, the town bond the maximum number of projects already approved but currently funded with short-term bond anticipation notes. If that bonding occurs as discussed, interest, fees and costs for next year could be 43.8 percent less, by eliminating short-term interest and other associated costs.
As described above, the treasurer and selectmen have agreed that the town should issue long-term bonds this June for as many previously approved projects as possiblethe Wang-Coombs land purchase, library renovation, fire truck, and indoor air quality project at the Carlisle School. If the projects are bonded as planned, the estimated increase in long-term debt would be 23.5 percent. However, these new payments will be offset by a 24.5 percent increase in payments to the town from the School Building Assistance Bureau, reflecting reimbursement for borrowing for part of the construction of the Grant Building. Thus, the net increase in payments for debt will be 13.9 percent, and short-term interest payments will also be reduced. (The $2,120,060 in this line does not reflect possible excluded debt payments for the purchase of a "roll-off" truck at an estimated cost of $100,000 for the department of public Works (Article 8 and Question 4), or a proposed increase of $15,370 in funding for the school indoor air quality project (Article 17).)
Article 6 - Capital equipment
The $120,600 appropriated for Article 6 covers: safety repairs to sidewalk, curbing and driveway at the school; replacement of middle school furniture; ongoing replacement of public safety equipment, including clothing and equipment for firefighters, a radio and police cruiser; cleaning and painting of the fire station interior; and replacement of two compactors at the transfer station.
Article 7 - Free cash
A table in the Warrant Book (page 27) provides FinCom's estimate of how this transfer of $284,469 will change the free cash balance when offset by revenues greater than budgeted and appropriations not spent at the end of this fiscal year. According to this projection, the free cash balance available for the next fiscal year will be $500,000.
Article 8 - Roll-off truck
This article will allow the town to borrow $100,000 to replace a 19-year-old truck used by the department of public works to haul recyclables and trash to the Northeast Solid Waste Consortium incinerator at North Andover. According to Superintendent Gary Davis, the truck being replaced has traveled roughly 500,000 miles for the town.
Article 9 - Wage classification study
At the recommendation of the personnel board and the board of selectmen, last fall's Town Meeting authorized $15,000 to pay for a wage classification study. The study, which was recently completed, includes a job description and range of salaries for each non-union town employee. The purpose of Article 9 is to fund salary adjustments for these employees, based on the study. According to selectmen chair Doug Stevenson, it will cost $15,000 to bring all employees up to the minimum salary in the range recommended by the study, but closer to $50,000 to bring all covered employees up to the market average for their positions. The finance committee recommends that
$31,326 be appropriated under Article 9.
Article 10 - CCHS regional agreement
Under the original agreement for the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District, towns paid the district on a cost-per-student basis. The Education Reform Act of 1993 overrode these agreements by requiring the use of a complex formula, basing each town's contribution on the rate of new growth in the town. After protests from towns involved in regional agreements, new state legislation was passed, permitting regional districts to revert to the original agreements, if all members agree. A vote is required annually at each member's Town Meeting. Article 10 asks voters again to grant approval for the cost-per-student basis, as was done in May 1999.
Article 11 - Road repairs (Chapter 90)
This article enables the town to spend state funding (Chapter 90 funds) for routine road maintenance. The town has not been informed how much aid will be provided, but officials expect Boston's Big Dig project to reduce by a third or more what the town has received in prior years. Of this estimated $134,000, $30,000 will be set aside for a feasibility study for footpaths in the school area.
Article 12 - Veterans' agent and expenses
The requested $1,361 will fund the salary and expenses for the veterans' agent as well as aid for veterans, should they qualify. Ken Buffum, the director of veterans' services for the region that includes Carlisle, is dedicated to identifying and helping all those eligible for service-related benefits. In his update to the selectmen last August, Buffum stated that although his post is in Billerica, he has office hours at the Carlisle Town Hall on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month and can be reached at any time through town clerk Sarah Andreassen. He is willing to meet in people's homes to answer questions or help fill out paperwork. Buffum can be contacted directly at the Billerica Town Hall, 671-0969.
Article 13 - Revolving funds
The town receives fees from citizens designated for particular purposes or services (i.e. transfer station fees used for hazardous waste collection). Prior Town Meetings have established revolving funds, which set these receipts aside to be spent only for those purposes. Several of these funds, whose uses are listed in the article, must be re-authorized annually.
Article 14 - Computer hardware and software
At the time this was written, officials did not plan to move this article; they hope to fund these expenses through a Reserve Fund transfer under Article 4.
Article 15 - Municipal water supply
The board of health and the water quality subcommittee are requesting $20,000 to evaluate a potential municipal water supply on the O'Rourke Farm. Under the purchase agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the town has three years from the April 1999 closing date to identify a location on the land which could be used for a town water supply. The town would receive approximately $115,000 if the well location is identified within this time period on what has been designated an undevelopable portion of the land.
According to BOH chair Steve Opolski, initial estimates to assess a potential municipal water supply were in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. Last year, the board initially requested $50,000 for the study but, due to budget constraints, they ultimately asked for and received only $30,000. The group is now asking for the $20,000 balance which they believe is the baseline amount needed to do a reasonable assessment. Admitting that there had been some delays, largely due to the lack of a town administrator, Opolski said that the group has evaluated all of the data from studies already done on the property, studied maps and completed seismic work to assess the ground conditions. "Even if we don't need the well now," Opolski explained, the group wants to determine where a significant flow of water might be tapped for the town, keeping in mind that there is $115,000 hanging in the balance.
In order to fund this item, voters must approve this Town Meeting Warrant article as well as a Proposition 2-1/2 override question for the one-time expenditure at the May 9 election. The finance committe supports this expenditure.
Article 16 - School feasibility study
The Carlisle Public School is requesting $15,000 for a study of construction options for a possible school expansion. School representatives feel that planning now for a new school is prudent because of current trends increasing the school-aged population. Next year's enrollment is expected to top 800. Although the stated school capacity is 900, officials have said that the cafeteria, plaza, and other common areas are already overcrowded. There is some debate about whether the future demographics of the town will result in a leveling off of the school population after a peak passes through the system. School personnel stated that even if recent population increases do not continue at the current pace, the planning study will still be useful.The finance committee recommends adoption of Article 16. The selectmen had suggested that a demographic study be included in the planning. The long-term capital requirements committee was not asked for a recommendation.
Article 17 - Carlisle School's roof-top units
The Carlisle Public School has been trying to replace two roof-top heating and ventilation units since 1996 to improve the air quality in the Robbins Building. The requested funding is to close the gap between money appropriated at the last Town Meeting, $153,370, and unforeseen additional expenses, such as electrical work related to the project. The debt exclusion ballot question was approved at last year's election and the requested additional funding is within the ten percent increase guideline. The finance committee recommends the additional $15,370 for the debt exclusion. Full funding must be in place for the project to be started.
Article 18 - Open Space and Recreation Plan
The conservation commission joined the selectmen, planning board, recreation commission and trails committee in approving the updated Open Space and Recreation Plan developed under the direction of commission appointees Betsy Fell and Susan Emmons. The 65-page document has already received full approval from the state, thus assuring Carlisle's eligibility for self-help funding for land acquisition proposals over the next five years.
The document which was first drafted in 1979 "to enable the town to have clearly defined goals" in the acquisition, preservation and management of land resources was updated in 1987 and 1994. The present revision process began with public open space workshops in which the 1994 goals were reviewed and updated, undeveloped land parcels prioritized and a five-year action plan developed in consultation with other town bodies.
Commissioner John Lee was seconded by his colleagues as he thanked the co-authors at the completion of a yearlong task "superbly accomplished." Members were particularly impressed by the 11 maps included at the end of the book, which pictured the historic district, historic roads, zoning, aquifers, soils, wetlands, proposed pedestrian walkways, proposed Bay Circuit Trail, protected lands in Carlisle and ranked open space parcels.
According to Fell, draft copies of the plan have been circulating among town boards since December and are now available in the Gleason Public Library. The plan will be summarized at the Annual Town Meeting , and if approval is granted, the commission intends to print 100 final copies.
Article 19 - Gift of Tall Pines Subdivison Lot
Last year, Town Meeting voted to acquire Lot 10 in the Tall Pines subdivision by purchase, gift or eminent domain. The gift was made by John Swanson, individually and in his capacity as trustee of Swanson Family Trust, JMS Realty Trust and Susan and Peter Realty Trust. The lot, which is the closest to the Carlisle Pines State Forest, contains approximately three acres and was conveyed with the perpetual restriction that it be used for conservation purposes only. On February 9, the conservation commission considered a request from John Swanson that the lot be named The Swanson Family Land. The request was granted. Town Meeting vote is necessary to accept the gift for conservation purposes.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito