Friday, May 17, 2002
Voters say 'No tax override' Burkel, Fitzgerald elected to school committee
In a stunning reversal of a ten-year pattern of approving overrides, adding up to a 42% increase in property taxes since 1992, Carlisle voters said no to question 1B, which would have increased taxes 5.9% over the Proposition 2-1/2 levy limit. At the town election on Tuesday, the override went down on a vote of 856 to 689.
After two days of heavy rains, the weather on Tuesday was cool, but pleasant, with only an occasional passing shower. A steady stream of voters passed through the polls at Town Hall at a rate of just over 100 voters per hour. 1,561 residents turned out, nearly 50% of registered voters, a strong turnout for a local election.
Town Meeting more generous
Last week Town Meeting passed the 5.9% override. Typically Town Meeting participants are more generous than voters at the ballot box. Both the board of selectmen and the finance committee (FinCom) had supported the 5.9% override, although the FinCom probably set the stage for the tax revolt with its lengthy presentations at Town Meeting, highlighting Carlisle's tax history and pointing out that teacher salaries were very high relative to comparable towns.
Although a higher level override of 7% was defeated at Town Meeting, the question still appeared (Question 1A) on the ballot, which had been printed last month. Question 1A was also defeated on Tuesday by a vote of 968 to 571.
School committee only contested race
In the only contested race, Nicole Burkel and Michael Fitzgerald won three-year seats on the Carlisle School Committee, replacing current members Cindy Nock and Harry Crowther. Both Nock and Crowther served on both the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC). The CSC will decide who will represent Carlisle on the RSC.
Running unopposed, John Ballantine and Vivian Chaput were re-elected for three-year terms to the board of selectmen. (See election results on page 4.)
The no-override budget
With the defeat of the overrides, Carlisle is left with the no-override, or balanced, or levy-limit budget which provides an increase of 3.8% over FY02. This budget is funded by the permitted 2-1/2% tax increase, new real estate growth, and a transfer from free cash. Most of the 3.8% dollar increase over FY02 will be consumed by unavoidable increases in pensions and benefits for town employees and early retirement benefits for teachers. Town departments, including police and fire, will receive no increases over FY02. Many groups will face the unpleasant choice of offering no salary increases or decreasing services. Schools will need to cut personnel, programs, and extracurricular activities.
Political Action Committees
Two political action committees (PACs) in town took opposing positions on the override. The Carlisle Coalition, a group of Carlisle School parents chaired by Andi Gettys, sent out a mailer to all town residents in April urging support for both the 5.9% and the 7.0% overrides. Prior to the Town Meeting and election, PAC members organized a telephone calling chain, primarily targeting other school parents. However, they remained less visible to the remaining 80% of the town voters, relying on the school committee to present the case at Town Meeting for higher school funding through overrides. The school, which earlier in the year aggressively promoted a 10.8% increase over FY02 for "level services," maintained a low profile after citizen discomfort with their positions became evident.
The Carlisle Committee for Tax Fairness became visible at Town Meeting with passionate pleas from members Larry Bearfield and Steve Kendall to vote against the overrides. ("We have created a Rolls Royce [referring to the schools]. Don't put another coat of wax on the Rolls Royce this year.") The group campaigned at the transfer station, placed a full-page political ad in the Mosquito the weekend before the election, and planted "No Tax Override" signs on the major roads through town. In the end, their signs and placards had the last word.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito