The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 24, 2002

Saddened by actions of override foes

To the Editor:

My wife and I have been residents of Carlisle for more than two decades. Although we have been empty nesters for the entire period, we have always supported the Carlisle Schools both personally and by our votes, and intend to continue doing so as long as we remain residents. We have also supported those measures that attempt to maintain the unique quality of life in Carlisle. We have been saddened, and disappointed, by the actions of the Carlisle Committee for Tax Fairness, which mounted an extensive and expensive anti-school and anti-override campaign, whose results, we believe, will have a destructive impact on the quality of education in Carlisle. We feel that some of the statements made at Town Meeting, including some from members of the finance committee, did not accurately represent our situation ­ particularly, the use of cumulative statistics as a basis for prediction of future tax bills exaggerated the future results.

The effective tax rate in Carlisle has remained almost constant during the last few years; what has changed is the valuation of individual properties. This represents a very significant increase in the net worth of each homeowner. Thus, that part of your taxes that maintains the quality of the schools in Carlisle is actually protecting the value of your home equity. If the true majority of Carlisle citizens believes that the quality of education in the town needs modulation, it can be best done by more personal involvement and over time, not with drastic and destructive short-term action.

My wife and I also strongly believe that support of quality education is a patriotic duty to maintain an informed citizenry, as well as paying back the sacrifices of those before us who supported our education.

We strongly support innovative measures that would make it easier for those whose principal net worth is represented by their home equity to continue to live in Carlisle, but not at the cost of fiscal support for quality education. Also, the worst fiscal impact the town might face is a Chapter 40b development that could overwhelm the schools while not paying its way. Long-term planning and fiscal reserves are an important aspect of defense against such a contingency.

Wendell G. Sykes
Betsy J. Constantine
Indian Hill Road

Ballot confusion

To the Editor:

I headed to the polls May 14 believing the 5.9% budget override was the only override option available. I was somewhat confused at the ad in the Mosquito urging voters to reject the 5.9% and the 7% budget overrides when at Town Meeting the 7% override option had already been voted down. I figured either the ad was submitted before the results of Town Meeting or there is much about the complexities of town budgets and override procedure that I just didn't understand.

Instead of seeing a 5.9% budget override question on the ballot, there was a 1A question for $545,650 override and a 1B question for a $393,650 override. I knew the percent override options in my head but didn't have the exact dollar amount override options memorized. I had thought the 7% was not an option, so I was thinkin', "The 1A has to be a vote for the 5.9% override and the 1B must be for the 3.7% balanced budget. Or perhaps the 1A is for the 7% override and the 1B the 5.9%. Or maybe this was some sort of sinister communist plot designed to infect and ultimately topple the democratic process" (I had recently watched a bad Oliver Stone movie which may have influenced my third conclusion).

I mistakenly went to the polls thinking % override when I should have been thinking $ override. I know I should have studied the sample ballot in the Mosquito before heading off to vote but I kinda skipped over that page to read in the Police Blotter about the escaped emu last spotted heading north on Curve Street.

Now I can better sympathize with my daughter's frustration when we sit together to do her first-grade math homework and she impatiently exclaims, "Daddy, I just don't get it!" The polling volunteers rightfully would not clarify the ballot questions to me and of course you couldn't leave the voting area to clarify the budget numbers without turning in your ballot. A suggestion to improve the ballot next time would be to include a 1C you could check and next to it would read, "I just don't get it!"

Doug Torgersen
Fiske Street

Working together

To the Editor:

I hear a disturbing tone in recent discussions about our town budget. Sometimes it may be easier to blame each other than deal with the tough realities of a slowing economy. But now is the time to stay with problem solving and not blaming. This week alone, I've heard people blame the school board, the finance committee, the taxpayers, the selectmen.

In fact, each group is doing their job, meeting their responsibilities. For example, our school board is responsible for quality education, in spite of an ever-increasing student population. Our FinCom gathers information and delivers fiscally responsible budgets. The selectmen balance options and offer the voters choices. The voters make all the final decisions, including setting limits on spending. I would argue that town government is working as it should. No one is to blame. We simply have a problem to solve.

Leadership is about bringing people together, facing our problems and finding solutions. This year Carlisle faces reductions in state aid of $200,000 and budget requests exceeding FinCom guidelines by over a million dollars. Together, the selectmen, FinCom, school board and other town boards completed a difficult compromise, arriving at an override request of $339,000. After a long process, this amount was our best proposal to balance town services and tax increases.

With the voters' decision to limit spending, we now face the inevitable difficulties of running the town with reduced resources. Our town boards will continue to work to minimize the effect on town services. Now more than ever, we need to unite. I believe we all want the best for our town. It is important that we listen to each other, respect divergent opinions, and understand that we are all on the same team. Let's not allow divisive attitudes to pull our community apart.

Carol Peters, selectman
Carleton Road

Town Hall staff a casualty of override defeat

To the Editor:

Most voters of last week may not have been aware that the override proposed by the selectmen and finance committee included a 2.5% cost-of-living increase for municipal employees and the first adjustment since 1999 in the min/max range for one-third of the grades in the wage-salary classification plan. In defeating the override, the town also defeated the wage-salary plan intended to fairly compensate town employees. Carlisle has been hemorrhaging staff over the years, mostly because of low pay. I am personally aware of losing three conservation administrators, two assessors, two planners, four secretaries, three town administrators and a number of DPW workers.

Personally I feel that the no override vote was a "no school tax" vote. Unfortunately the consequence may be that town employees will not receive any pay raises or if they do, their hours will be cut so the end result is less take-home pay than this year. This is not a raise. These employees should not be made a casualty of an uninformed constituency. In hindsight placing the cost-of-living increase and wage salary adjustment as an override question was not very prudent. The result of the no-override vote has had an extremely demoralizing effect on Town Hall staff and places the town in a very vulnerable position.

Obviously as a town employee I have a personal and financial interest. However I am also a taxpayer and parent of two children in the Carlisle and CCHS school systems. Of all of the issues before the town, I think none is more critical, or has received less attention, than fairly compensating our municipal employees. I hope that the town leadership and residents will work together to resolve this issue.

Linda Fantasia,
board of health agent
Cross Street

The meaning of 'no'

To the Editor:

I read with interest the front-page headlines of Friday, May 17, 2002: "Voters say 'No tax override."

On the same front page: "Selectmen may consider new override."

Fascinating. It begs the natural question: "What part of 'no' do they not understand?"

Perplexingly yours,
James J. Jovenich
Nowell Farme Road

Maple Street ­ a dead-end road?

To the Editor:

Anyone attempting to drive down Maple Street recently has been struck (no pun intended) by the collapse of the road as it passes over the culvert/bridge leading to Greenough Pond. Clearly, this beautiful wetland was at one time filled in to make way for the road, and now it appears that nature (and the beavers) may want to take it back. To my non-engineer's eye, it looks as if reconstruction is going to be a significant task, at not inconsiderable expense.

Given the present Carlisle taxpayer rebellion, and the seeming paucity of free funds in the town's coffers ­ a situation seeming to only get worse ­ I have a unique solution: don't fix it! Give it back to nature. Let Maple Street become a dead-end street. We can all walk down and listen to the birds, and perhaps the trails committee can build a small footbridge.

Whatcha think?

Bert Williams
Maple Street

Dennison's efforts appreciated

To the Editor:

Once again residents from Carlisle and other nearby communities have begun gardening in the peaceful setting provided by the community gardens on the Foss Farm Conservation Land. Peas are erupting in their rows and familiar sounds can be heard of the squeaking, rusty hand pumps, of raking, hoeing and children being instructed on how to plant their pumpkins, and birds rediscovering their bird houses. It's spring on Foss Farm.

On behalf of the Carlisle Conservation Commission and the many community gardeners, I wish to extend our grateful appreciation to Bob Dennison for the many hours and dedicated service he has provided in order to make this experience possible for so many people. He has coordinated the tilling, the staking and the reservations for many years and we hope for many to come. It is the work of selfless volunteers such as Bob that makes Carlisle such a great place in which to live.

Sylvia R. Willard,
ConsCom administrator and
Carlisle Conservation Commission

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito