Friday, August 30, 2002
Selectmen's goals reflect changing priorities
Last summer the selectmen began a process of establishing short-term and long-term goals for the board as a way to measure progress and to pinpoint issues that require more attention and energy. This year, at their August 13 meeting, they reviewed and updated those goals. The process of goal-setting and review reveals much about how the selectmen see their roles and the town's changing priorities.
Progress on short-term goals
• Wage and Classification Study. Implementation of the Wage and Classification Study, the number one goal last year, is on-track. The study classified all town jobs according to currently accepted, consistent standards and recommended salary adjustments to make Carlisle more competitive with other towns. The plan to implement merit increases, however, is stalled. Since many town boards and departments have very few employees, a town-wide merit ranking is difficult. Selectman Tim Hult said he believed "any [merit] plan we put forward isn't going to be approved by the personnel board." A Special Town Meeting in the fall is planned to vote on personnel policies and bylaws.
• Centralizing town government. Only a few of the recommendations of the "Carlisle 2000" report, which promoted greater centralization of town government, have been implemented. Most managers "only respond to their own boards," undermining coordination and cooperation. Board of Selectmen chair John Ballantine raised the need for a financial director, or a stronger role for the town administrator. Town administrator Madonna McKenzie responded, "You gave me the title, but not the authority." Hult noted that an attempt to "bring the groups under one umbrella" failed at Town Meeting a few years ago. "My guess is that what was doable is already done," he said.
• Managing town assets. Management of town assets provided a number of short-term objectives. The school's septic plan, a major concern last year, has made enough progress to be stricken from the list this year, as was the management of the cemetery, which now has a policy in place. On the other hand, the sale of the town's Carriage Way lot, which was expected to be a "done deal," is mired in legal issues. New concerns regarding town assets were added to the list: getting a cell tower site approved on town land for income; making a decision what to do with the Town Forest; resolving issues of usage at Foss Farm; and finalizing a plan for the "school loop" walking pathway.
• Managing the budget. Another area of short-term concern is the process for managing town finances. The need for a five-year financial plan is more urgent due to the recent budget crisis. In addition, better coordination with the Concord financial authorities and the high school is a priority. "There's a real disconnect between what the [high] school people expect and what the towns can pay," offered selectman Vivian Chaput. Selectman Carol Peters suggested adding a goal to provide tax relief for senior citizens.
• Carlisle 200th year celebration. A final item on the short-term list offered a break from difficult financial and organizational issues: the town needs to begin planning for a town-wide celebration of Carlisle's two hundredth birthday in 2005!
Long-term goals resist solutions
• Town growth. "Managing build-out" was a long-term goal for last year that, at second glance, appeared beyond the ability of the selectmen to influence. Chaput noted that moratoriums on building permits are illegal unless a town service such as water or septic is at risk clearly not an issue in Carlisle. Ballantine pointed to steady growth of twenty to twenty-five new houses per year, pointing out that the turnover of older houses is the main driver of a growing school population. With no action item, it was agreed to remove the goal and accept that market forces cannot be controlled.
• Traffic, affordable housing, school population. Other long-term goals seem to resist solutions. A suggestion was made to form a committee to look at the issue of traffic. Affordable housing was retained as a goal, though a workable action plan has yet to be proposed. An item to project long-term municipal land needs was removed, but Chaput suggested adding an item to update the planning board's master plan for land use. Evaluating school needs will be an ongoing item, as will retaining seniors and empty-nesters in town.
• New items. Other items added this year included a look at whether the structure of town government is adequate for a town with 300 employees (including school), and an examination of alternative revenue sources, though Hult expressed pessimism that a significant source remained that had not already been examined. "We could always erect a tollbooth on the edge of town," joked Chaput.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito