Friday, May 24, 2002
RSC calls for joint Town Meeting to resolve CCHS budget
The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) met early on Tuesday evening in the Carlisle School cafeteria with the express purpose of determining the budget the Committee would present to the Carlisle Board of Selectmen later that evening.
Last week, voters in Concord and Carlisle could not agree on a budget for Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) for the fiscal year 2003. Concord passed two overrides, the "Concord selectmen budget" which proposed a 7% increase over FY02, and the "Concord FinCom budget" which recommended an increase of 5.6%. In order to match Concord, Carlisle would need to raise an additional $91,193 to match the 7% Concord FinCom budget, or $138,492 to match the 5.6% Concord selectmen's budget.
This was the first RSC meeting for Nicole Burkel and Michael Fitzgerald, newly appointed Carlisle representatives, replacing outgoing Carlisle members Cindy Nock and Harry Crowther. During the meeting, Concord member Betsy Bilodeau was elected chair of the RCS and Fitzgerald, vice-chair.
A meeting had been held last Thursday with the same agenda, but Carlisle had not yet designated its new representatives. Nock and Crowther were present at the Thursday meeting, but counsel had determined that their terms had indeed expired and that, legally, they could not represent Carlisle. Hence, without proper Carlisle representation, the regional school committee discovered it could not vote on any items. The meeting was then rescheduled to Tuesday.
A motion was made to accept the higher budget amount voted by Concord voters. Superintendent Ed Mavragis reviewed the enrollment-driven nature of the proposed budget. Fitzgerald responded, "There is no question that we as a town have financial responsibility for the increased number of Carlisle students at the high school. Our problem is that even at the level the regional committee is proposing, this means a 14-15% increase in assessment at a time of reduced revenues and decreased state funding to the town, and I believe we just cannot afford the budget increases being asked for."
Concord member Lauren Walters noted that he was "very sympathetic to the issues Carlisle is facing. But, when I look at enrollment projections over the next several years, I believe the proportional problem is going to continue for a while and is something we must work together on. ...It is not a productive thing to pit our towns against each other."
Fitzgerald replied, "I cannot, in good conscience, vote to increase funding in this area while we are reducing in other areas of the town budget."
Newly-elected chair Betsy Bilodeau said, "Clearly we as a group need to look at some of the longer-term planning for these difficult issues. Concord is not far behind in the predicament Carlisle is facing; we are also largely dependent on residential taxes, and as time goes on, we will soon find ourselves in the same situation Carlisle faces now; but I am not prepared to go below the number that Concord voters have approved."
A vote was taken and the motion passed six to one to request Carlisle to match the Concord selectmen budget. Fitzgerald cast the dissenting vote.
Subsequently, at the Carlisle selectmen's meeting Fitzgerald said that the RSC will call a joint Concord and Carlisle Town Meeting if Carlisle does not support that level.
The regional school committee will meet again on Tuesday May 28 at 7:30 in the Carlisle School Library.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito