Friday, March 22, 2002
Checking the "School septic, tax relief articles not on Warrant" on page 7, you will note petition requests concerned with tax relief for the elderly and the less affluent. One proposed warrant article, called a "circuit breaker," would see to it that for Carlisle citizens whose property tax exceeds seven percent of their household income, seven percent of the owner's income shall be accepted as full payment of the property tax for the year.
Eunice Knight, a Bedford Road resident, had previously approached the selectmen with a petition request to provide tax relief for senior citizens. Although her petition was not accepted for the Warrant, FinCom member Tony Allison alerted Knight to an article that was on the Warrant in Lincoln. Knight, in turn, took this idea and contacted town officials in Lincoln to get the proper wording for a similar article to be put on the Warrant in Carlisle. She then went door-to-door to obtain the necessary signatures on the petition (including Allison's) before presenting it to the selectmen. As we go to press, the selectman have not ruled on the non-budgetary articles. They will resume their deliberations on Monday morning at 8 a.m. in the Town Hall, at which time they will address the proposed "circuit breaker" article.
The point of this story is to show how one senior citizen in the town and an individual with children in the public schools could work together to find a possible way to put a ceiling on taxes for families that cannot afford what it costs to maintain our top-notch schools.
These are difficult times throughout the state of Massachusetts, with budget cuts all around. If you read the story about volunteers in the Concord prisons, you will see what is happening to the penal system across the state. Here in Carlisle we have the typical dilemma: how to support our schools which are among the best in the state, at the same time allow our senior citizens (there are 1,173 over the age of 55) and the less affluent to live in town without the burden of higher and higher taxes.
One of the reasons for the high quality of Carlisle Schools has been the willingness of seniors to pay higher taxes to maintain this level of excellence. Do we want to maintain the diversity of those living in this community, or do we want to drive retirees and others with moderate incomes out of town?
Support for some sort of override is not the question. It is how to raise taxes fairly, so we can continue to have top-notch schools, good town services, and at the same time find a way for those on a fixed income to remain in town. Maybe if we follow the example of Knight and Allison, who worked together, we will see our way out of this budget crisis.
The amazing WBP
Yesterday was one of those blissfully warm days we've had many of this winter. I walked the mile or so from my house to the post office and listened to loud choruses of frogs around little pools in the woods. The sun shone quite hot on one deep pool, and wood frog "quacks" filled the air. I noticed that the surface of the water was alive with ripples and bubbles. Watching more closely, my eyes resolved the hundreds of tiny bodies swimming everywhere. It was a soup of passionate wood frogs.
It was, in fact, a "vernal pool," a term that does little to evoke such teeming life, in what most would call a "mud puddle," hard by two busy roads near the center of town. A grade-school student, asked what a vernal pool was, held his hands wide like a fisherman describing the One That Got Away and said, "It's a wicked big puddle!"
Those wicked big puddles (WBPs) are inland versions of the seashore tide pools so beloved by children. Vernal pools may lack hermit crabs, limpets or sea anemones, but the creatures that live in them and nowhere else are just as amazing. The wood frogs and tiny spring peepers are the noisiest denizens of WBPs, but a closer look reveals frilly pink fairy shrimp, clams small enough to be called "fingernails" or larvae of caddis flies that build log cabins or tube tents from pine needles and leaf scraps. Fascinating stuff.
Look for one of these WBPs in your neighborhood (there are probably more than 100 in Carlisle's woods) and scoop some water into a white pan. You'll see a blood-red worm that moves like a cracking whip. Diving beetles with long oar-shaped feet carry their own scuba gear a bubble that lets them breathe while they scoot about searching for prey, which (luckily) includes mosquito larvae. If the frogs and salamanders have been around for a week or so, you'll find their eggs floating in the water or clinging to a stick, encased in clear or greenish jelly. These will hatch into tadpoles (for the frogs) and the similar salamander larvae, also ferocious eaters of mosquito larvae. If you have a hand lens or microscope, the variety of creatures in the pools can entertain you for days. Maybe for a lifetime.
The amazing thing about WBPs is that all this abundant life heralded by the wood frogs is found nowhere else. No WBP, no salamanders, no wood frogs, no fairy shrimp, no diving beetles. Where mosquitoes can breed in any stray beer can or discarded tire, many of these species are so interwoven that they can't adapt to a lesser habitat. The frogs and salamanders go out and live in the surrounding drier land, but they must come back to the WBP to breed and reproduce. The WBP is spring break in Florida, a singles bar for amphibians.
So listen for the frogs, look for the puddles. Maybe go out and dip into the mucky water. Get more information at www.vernalpools.org. You (or your kids) will be amazed at what you find.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito