Friday, January 26, 2001
Carlisle's CCHS share rises 21.4%
by Chris Jones
The budget for the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee was presented
by Superintendent Ed Mavragis and RSC chair Lauren Walters. They presented
a total budget of 14.9 million dollars, an increase of 12.6% over FY01.
However, because Carlisle's share of high school enrollment is continuing
to go up, Carlisle's contribution to the RSC budget will go from $2.7
million to $3.3 million, an increase of 21.4%.
RSC Chair Walters was clearly aware that this percentage increase for Carlisle would be controversial. Before Superintendent Mavragis made his detailed budget presentation, Walters said, "This is a budget which includes no new programmatic initiatives. It responds to increased enrollments, and to contracts with teachers and other bargaining units. It is a substantial increase, and we are mindful of the fact that in percentage terms it is a greater impact on Carlisle. I would also say that this budget, like the CPS [Concord Public Schools] budget, was looked at on a bottom-up basis. Every line item was scrutinized to see whether programs that we have should be retained, and what is the minimum that we can do while maintaining the quality of education that we are providing."
Enrollments and enhancements
According to Superintendent Mavragis, the principal drivers for the increase in the regular education budget were an enrollment increase of 7%, coupled with teacher salary increases of 3.36% (which are mandated by the union contract with the teachers).
The budget also contains a number of "enhancements" which the school considers mandatory, including:
gradually picking up the cost of the intervention prevention councilor that was previously being funded by the community chest ;
increasing secretarial hours (parts of existing positions);
adding a library aide;
expanding the technology staff;
partially funding the radio station with the balance to be raised from outside sources;
adding planning time for summer.
As might be expected, FinCom members were very concerned about the sizable increase in Carlisle's contribution to the high school budget. Several board members focused on the cost of the METCO program, which is designed to increase the diversity of the high school population by bringing 100 students from Boston to attend Concord-Carlisle High School. Several members questioned whether the METCO program provides enough value to Carlisle to justify its cost.
RSC chair Walters responded by noting that the program had been ongoing for over thirty years, and had been consistentlysu pported by the RSC over that time. He stated, as his own personal view, that the program was not just for the benefit of the Boston students who participate in it, but that the increased diversity in the high school was of great benefit for all of the students, including those who reside in Concord and Carlisle.
FinCom member Tony Alison responded, "One of the problems I have with this is that you are explaining why METCO is good in non-quantifiable ways but the budget is quantifiable. The difference is that we are being asked to subsidize this for students who don't live in town I think that with the economy the way it is, people in this town are going to be more sensitive to taxes than they have been in a long time."
Member Charlie Parker echoed Alison's sentiments, saying "We suggest to you that you look seriously at getting rid of METCO, because we can't afford a 21.4% increase." FinCom chair Simon Platt said "At the end of the day, 21.4% is huge even to get close to that number, the RSC should demonstrate that it has challenged every number, including METCO the increase of 21.4 % would blow anybody's socks off. I know it has all been done from the bottom up, but all of the sacred cows need to be examined."
RSC Chair Walters reiterated his personal support for the METCO program, and indicated that the proper forum for challenging the program would be in an election for seats on the Regional School Committee. In the end, Walters and the Carlisle FinCom members agreed to disagree on the issue. Susan Lehotsky contributed to this article.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito