Friday, November 15, 2002
FinCom sets FY04 guidelines and schedules
The old adage in newspaper reporting — that it is what you don't see that tells the real story — proved true as the finance committee reviewed its FY04 Preliminary Department and School Budgetary Guidelines memo at its November 7 meeting. Only one town program, the Wage and Classification initiative, was able to offer truly solid numbers.(See story this page).
FY04 preliminary budget guidelines
The FinCom is required by state law to develop and recommend a balanced budget to the town at the Annual Town Meeting. The first step in that process is estimating the revenues that Carlisle will receive from taxes on existing property, state aid, local receipts and new real estate growth. Estimating revenue is always difficult, but this year more so given the difficult economic conditions confronting the state. As a starting point, the FinCom has assumed that state aid and new growth projections will be slightly lower than in the prior two years.
Consequently, the FinCom states in its budget guideline memo that "it becomes necessary to reduce the rate of growth in town expenditures in order to create a balanced FY04 budget."
The FinCom memo establishes specific guidelines that the town departments and school should use in developing their FY04 budgets:
Carlisle Schools $7,405,560 (2.6%)
CCHS $3,569,990 (-1.8%)
Minuteman Tech $87,297 (0%)
Town depts $3,752,875 (3.6%)
The town departments increase includes the Wage and Classification initiative adjustment. (See story on Wage & Classification on this page.)
As reported last week, Carlisle will catch a break on the FY04 high school budget. Due to a drop in Carlisle's allocation (based on student enrollment), the FinCom is projecting a preliminary CCHS budget decline of 1.75% from FY03 (assuming Concord's budget does not exceed its levy limit). This budgetary windfall enables the Carlisle Public Schools to receive a budget increase this year. It also allows the town to consider other priorities that otherwise might not receive funding.
There was little conversation on the General Increases spending category for town departments. Most departments were given a guideline of a 1.5% budget increase. Public celebrations, snow and ice, citizen recognition and unemployment insurance received no increase. This was due in part to the practice of not forecasting increases on certain items (e.g., snow and ice), and in part to financial choices. The categories of General Expenses and Town Hall, which cover legal fees, town utility expenses and other such items, received slightly larger increases.
Although the town budget guidelines were established, the FinCom recognizes that challenges still exist. There is no explicit budget for legal expenses (under the General Government category). Given the past history and the current cell tower litigation, it is highly likely that significant expense will be incurred. Furthermore, the unsigned police contract will require either a budget increase of $50,000 to $70,000, or an equal cut in the police department budget. The DPW has had several capital expenditures that may require an increased maintenance budget. And there is always the issue of "we don't know what we don't know."
The FinCom's memo specifies that all departments should use the budget guidelines in constructing their detailed FY04 budget proposals. If there is a need to exceed the budget, then the department must create a budget that both conforms to the guidelines and details the items requiring increased spending along with the reasons for the item.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito