Friday, June 14, 2002
Joint Concord-Carlisle Town Meeting back on the table Town services at risk if override fails
Forget what we told you in the Mosquito last week. It's changed (again).
Last week, at their June 4 meeting, it appeared the town selectmen had finessed a way to avoid a prolonged budget resolution process. (See flow chart of scheduled and possible budget events.) The plan called for funding the high school shortfall out of newly-found revenues. But a ruling by town counsel has the selectmen going back to "Plan A." The current plan calls for funding the high school from available funds as well as a $75,000 override which must be approved both by the Town Meeting on Monday, June 17, and by ballot on June 26. If the override fails in either venue, a joint Concord-Carlisle Town Meeting will be convened on June 27 to finalize the CCHS budget.
Town counsel Paul DeRensis concluded that the wording of the override ballot question, which was set in May and cannot be changed, requires that all funds generated by the override must be allocated to the high school. The ballot question states that the override is "providing additional operating funds for the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District." Selectman John Ballantine agreed. "This is clearer. People can understand what they're voting for," he said at a FinTeam meeting on June 11.
Town budgets could be cut
The current plan is to provide additional funding to town departments out of revenues that will be higher than was projected at the time of the May Town Meeting. The additional moneys will come from higher-than-expected state aid as well as slightly higher real estate growth. While it may appear that town budgets are now safe, this may not be the case. If Carlisle voters turn down the $75,000 override and a joint Town Meeting approves the CCHS budget level that passed in Concord, department budgets may need to be reduced to satisfy Carlisle's contractual obligation to the high school.
The selectmen are committed to honoring contractual and promised salary increases to town employees. This means budget cuts can only come from reducing services. Town administrator Madonna McKenzie is drawing up a list of possible cuts to the library, DPW, police, and fire services (see "Budget process may hold tough choices..." on page 1).
How did we get here?
Town selectmen have worked diligently over the past weeks to construct a Warrant for the Carlisle Special Town Meeting Monday to resolve two issues that arose as the result of May's failed override. The two issues are 1) a $125,000 shortage in funding for Carlisle's portion of the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) budget, and 2) no salary increases for non-school town employees, even those under contracts. The Carlisle School budget is no longer at issue as the Carlisle School Committee voted on May 21 to accept budget cuts and reduce programs at the school so the selectmen could focus on resolving the issues with the town departments and CCHS.
At their meeting May 21, the selectmen agreed to put forward an override for $75,000 to fund the CCHS assessment. At that time it was understood that a portion of that assessment and all the money needed to fund employee raises would be covered by the unanticipated increases in town revenues.
At their meeting June 4, the selectmen changed their minds. Faced with substantial input from Concord officials and the regional school committee (RSC), and wishing to avoid a projected budget process, the selectmen attempted to change the motions (as the Warrant was posted, the articles could not be changed) to direct the found money to CCHS. While this approach seemed counter to the stated objective of "putting town employees first," it had the advantage of eliminating the need for a joint Concord-Carlisle Town Meeting to resolve the high school budget, should the override fail. That approach has now been ruled illegal, and the selectmen are now back to the original plan. But check the Mosquito web site (www. carlislemosquito.org) for any updates before the Special Town Meeting on Monday.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito