Friday, January 17, 2003
RSC votes 9.32% increase for CCHS
On Tuesday the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee voted to support a FY04 budget, which asks for a 9.32% increase in spending over the current year. Acting Superintendent Eugene Thayer explained he was presenting a "level services" budget, and stated,"Right now we are in survival mode." He explained he was focused on keeping what is offered presently at the school, without introducing any "innovations."
Concord FinCom recommendations
The Concord levy limit for the regional school budget is $15,472,130. The Concord FinCom had recommended a budget of $16,136,558 (an 8.52% increase) which would require an override of $664,428. The "level services" budget supported by the RSC requests an additional $913,007, bumping up the override to $1,577,435, and creating a total budget of $17,049,565.
Carlisle's assessment for the "level services" budget would be $4,893,225. The levy limit budget assessment for Carlisle would be $4,440,501.
Proposed FY04 CCHS budgets
Regional school committee member and Carlisle resident Michael Fitzgerald commented that there would be many hurdles to go through to get the RSC's "level services" budget accepted by Carlisle. He noted that the Carlisle FinCom has never recommended an override of over $400,000.
When asked if a vote should be taken, RSC chair Betsy Bilodeau expressed comfort with the process and the budget. Committee member and Carlisle resident Nicole Burkel suggested delaying the vote, saying "I would have a hard time supporting this." She felt they would end up with a lot of angry people if it was voted on today, noting people will see the budget as an increase. She suggested waiting until the other budgets are presented by the school to the committee, anticipating a Concord Fincom budget and a levy limit budget. Thayer answered that the budget does not contain increases, "We don't have any frills." He said the next approach will be to show what the district will lose if this budget is not approved. Fitzgerald noted the hard work the administration has done to develop the budget. Burkel, again noting the difficulty of carrying this budget back to Carlisle, moved to have the voted delayed until the other budgets were presented. No committee members seconded her motion, however, and her motion was never brought to a vote.
Making up for cut SPED funds
Thayer expressed concerns about reimbursements from the state, such as the 50/50 SPED (special education) spending for outplacement students. The district pays fifty percent of the cost of outplacement, with the remaining fifty percent covered by state funds. The state has placed a freeze on SPED reimbursements, with a possible "one time reimbursement" of funds in August 2003. Thayer said he feels it is possible the funds may not be recovered, so he has included the state portion of the SPED outplacement funds in the FY04 budget. He suggested the budget could be reduced in the future if the state money is received by the district. However, it was unclear how the funds would be distributed if the funds were reimbursed. He said he has ordered a freeze on all budgets and hiring, and will fill only teacher and bus driver positions.
Little room for cuts
Thayer pointed out that besides music and art, there is little that can be cut from the budget. "Art is $245,000 and music is $195,000," he explained, which wouldn't make much difference if cut from the budget. He said the ratio of students to teachers is under contract and can't be reduced. Burkel, expressing concern about the taxes, said some people worry they can't "afford a good education." "Try private school," said RSC Concord member Rebecca Shannon, referring to how expensive private schools are.
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