Friday, August 17, 2001
Lisa Jensen-Fellows named to Carlisle Finance Committee
Carlisle resident Lisa Jensen-Fellows has been appointed to the Carlisle Finance Committee filling the vacancy left by Charlie Parker whose term expired in June. Jensen-Fellows brings her professional experience in finance and her perspectives as a young mother and relative newcomer to Carlisle, adding a measure of diversity to the committee, whose membership in recent years has been predominantly male, long-term residents, with a significant number retired.
Jensen-Fellows grew up in Waltham and Wayland, attending public schools through the ninth grade. At that point her parents decided that she was "not being sufficiently challenged" and transferred her to Milton Academy as a boarding student. From there she entered Princeton University, one of the first generation of women to matriculate and graduate from the previously all-male institution. During a year of study in the UK she met her husband Simon and the couple settled in his native England. An English major in college, she became a chartered financial analyst, passing three sets of rigorous exams. While living in London, she joined the Union Bank of Switzerland, now the United Bank of Switzerland, eventually rising to the position of manager of a $10 billion equity fund for European stocks and shares, a position she held for six years.
After their first child, a daughter, was born, she returned to her demanding job, which required lots of travel. With the birth of their second child, Lisa and Simon decided to "change their lifestyle." They left London in 1999 and Lisa became a stay-at-home mom to Myfanwy, now five, and Alexander, now two.
Preparing for the job
This summer Jensen-Fellows has been reading past reports, such a Growing Pains authored by Ballantine, Hambleton and Pierce in 1999, analyzing Carlisle's growth patterns and needs for the future. She is asking questions about how the town budget will develop in the medium term in response to continued growth. How long will it be before the town needs to expand its services, including the school, the library, the police and fire departments?
"I'm very concerned about our tax rate," says Jensen-Fellows. In the future, especially if needs go up and the economy turns down, "we will have to negotiate very hard [to hold back spending]," she says. How will we make the trade-offs? She believes that the town will continue to support its schools as its highest priority, over needs and values such as open space and affordable housing. "I was very pleased with the [recent] gifts of land. It will become increasingly difficult to continue to buy land at the rate we have been doing in the last decade," she says.
When pressed on how to deal with expanding school budgets, the mother of two small children has a list ready. "As a parent, I don't want to compromise class size, but there are other areas to look at. For example, we may need to cut some extracurriculars, look at the regulations for special education, [consider the size] of the administration. For example, do we need to replace the assistant principal?" (Assistant principal Terry Farwell left her position in June.)
A near-term question is the need for a new school. "I'm still learning," emphasizes Jensen-Fellows. "But I'm concerned that there is an assumption that we need a new school. I would like to investigate that myself. Will the recession slow growth in Carlisle?" If a new school is indeed required, Jensen-Fellows would like to see something flexible and modular. She would like to see the town build only what it needs, leaving an option to add on later. However, she points out, before approving any funding, it is important to understand the total cost of a project, including both capital and operating costs.
Unhappy with CPA
How does she feel about the Community Preservation Act (CPA) which the town passed this spring, agreeing to an additional two percent tax levy on real estate to create a fund for historic preservation, open space, and affordable housing? "I voted against it," Jensen-Fellows says. "I don't like a pool of money which people feel they can spend. I don't like taxing in advance and don't believe the state will be as forthcoming [with matching funds] as promised."
A need for affordable housing
The debate on how to develop more affordable housing in Carlisle will likely escalate in the coming year. She thinks for a moment. "The state has a law [mandating that ten percent of housing stock be affordable]; and the town has not complied," she states. "Ethically, we should have affordable housing. A more diverse socioeconomic base is a good thing. The developer threat is not a real one." But she sees the complexities. "It is not clear how we will identify an acceptable site or where we will find the funding. Some money will come from the CPA, but we must look for other ways of funding. For example," she speculates, "we could ask developers to put in some affordable housing in every new [larger] development or contribute money [if a development is small]."
While there is already some diversity of opinion on current issues on the FinCom, Lisa Jensen-Fellows sees that her presence will make the committee more representative of the town. She hopes to provide "a pair of fresher eyes."
As she begins her term, she would like to give the Carlisle resident more information on the tax impact of different projects. In addition, this year the FinCom needs to establish a good working relationship with the new CPA committee, review population projections, and begin to "think out" the new school.
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