Friday, January 24, 2003
FY04 budget discipline maintained
school, treasurer, council on aging requests within guideline
In the second of seven finance committee hearings on the fiscal year 2004 (FY04) budget, the Carlisle Public Schools, the council on aging (COA), and the treasurer's department presented their FY04 budget projections. All three budgets were consistent with the budget guidelines established by the FinCom. Carlisle would not need a budget override if every town department met these levy limit budget guidelines. However, the treasurer's department and school also presented "growth" budgets in excess of the guidelines.
Council on aging budget
The council on aging's FY04 budget, which is consistent with the FinCom's levy limit guidelines, totals $60,436. Salaries represent 89% of the budget. The council has a director, an outreach individual, a van coordinator, and several van drivers. The FY04 budget submission includes the wage and grade increases that are a key priority of the selectmen. The $6,700 of expenses that comprise the rest of the budget include approximately $3,000 in van or bus-related expenses, $1,657 in program-related costs, and $800 in Minuteman senior services.
Despite an increasing senior population, the COA believes that it will be able to offer services consistent with the prior year. These services include Meals on Wheels, assisting individuals getting into senior living, daily check-ins, information referrals, luncheons, wheel-chairs and walkers. Level services can be offered because "new" seniors tend to need and request services later in life than older generations of seniors.
In addition to the town's expenditures on the council's department budget, there are additional sources of funds. The state has provided a small grant of $3,500 in FY 2003. This grant helps to defray the outreach salary and to provide for volunteers. Carlisle is also very fortunate that charitable groups and individuals also make contributions. However, these contributions vary yearly, and often have restrictions placed on the donation.
Since Ann Vandal resigned as treasurer/tax collector, town administrator Madonna McKenzie presented the treasurer's budget. The levy limit guideline budget request totals $105,173, which is a 2.4% increase over the FY2003 budget. The majority of the budget represents the treasurer's salary and benefits, which includes a 2% increase based on a grade change. The guideline budget will provide roughly level services, although some services will be less convenient. The tax bill return envelope, for example, could be eliminated.
In the "growth" budget, an increase is requested to pay for an assistant. In addition, there are nominal extra expensessuch as $300 for subscriptions. However, McKenzie cautioned the FinCom that the treasurer's budget will probably change when the new treasurer is hired.
Carlisle Public School budget
After the cursory reviews of the COA's and the treasurer's budgets, the FinCom turned its attention to the Carlisle Public School budget. Steven Moore, Carlisle's new school department business manager, began the detailed presentation by reviewing the school's vision statement and mission"to establish a world class school" that provides students the opportunity to "gain the skills, knowledge and values to become responsible members of a civil, interdependent community."
Moore stated that the school administration acknowledged the current economic conditions facing the community and built its levy limit guideline budget accordingly. The levy limit budget totals $7,405,433, just a 2.62% increase over the FY03 budget. To achieve this budget, however, the town will need to charge fees for afternoon kindergarten as well as seventh- and eighth-grade transportation. Furthermore, this levy limit budget does not include a cost increase for the yet-to-be-finalized teachers' contract, and only a 2.71% increase for the bus contract being negotiated.
Commitment to stay within levy limit
Moore, superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson, and school committee chair Suzanne Whitney Smith stated that the school will not come back to the community or FinCom to fund the teachers' contract. Instead, any teacher cost increases will result in reduction in other school services in order to achieve the levy limit budget guidelines. Any budget shortfall caused by the bus contract would also be handled within the levy limit budget.
FinCom member Tony Allison stated he was "more liberal than normal," and that he would like to understand the resulting school program impact from settling the teachers' contract. Fox-Melanson reiterated that the school will stay within the levy limit budget, "This is the money given us, the school has no choice." FinCom chair Larry Barton agreed with Allison stating, "I would not preclude the possibility of coming back. If services were to be significantly compromised, the community should have that conversation." The superintendent expressed surprise stating, "I feel like we changed positions while I was sleeping!" Other members of the FinCom were clear that the school was correct in its position of trying to live within the budget, and shouldn't count on an override.
School levy limit budget
The levy limit budget has six components (see table). The budget will serve an estimated school population of 847. Regular education and special education (SPED) are the two largest budget areas, and together comprise over _ of the total budget. SPED costs are determined by the number of children on an individual education plan (IEP), and the service each child needs to receive. Approximately 11% of the school population is serviced by the SPED budget. Operations are the third largest budget component, and the increases in this area are due to increasing utility costs. The large percent increase in student services was primarily due to a reclassification of counselors' salaries from SPED to student services. Without this reclassification, SPED costs would have increased approximately 2.9% and student services would not have had a meaningful increase. "Other" represents the bus contract. Finally, administration costs decreased due to the salary differential between the outgoing and incoming business manager.
Salary-related expenses across all budget areas total approximately $6 million, or over 80% of the total budget. Almost 95% of the regular education budget is salary related. Salaries in the other areas are tied to the teachers' contract. For every 1% increase in the teachers' contract, approximately $42,000 of total salary costs is added to the budget. Consequently, the finalized teachers' contract could have a significant impact on the school budget or services.
Growth budget additions
The growth budget presented by Moore requested an additional $100,505. This amount would fund an additional grade 2 teacher (in order to reduce class size to levels comparable to the first and third grades), a reading tutor, and would restore a special education teacher.
Carlisle Education Foundation impact
FY03 would have had a reduction in services of over 10% from the prior year in order to reach the 2003 levy limit budget. Many of the services were restored through the efforts of the Carlisle Education Foundation (CEF). However, the FY04 budget does not count on CEF assistance. Consequently, the school will have fewer resources devoted to serving the students. Existing programs not included in the FY04 budget include a reading specialist, a middle school teaching assistant, co-curricular activities (yearbook, student council, and math league), and a permanent substitute.
Lisa Harris, representing the CEF, stated that the CEF cannot guarantee contributions this year. The CEF no longer has the fall Pig & Pepper barbecue competition to raise money. Last year a special fundraising provided resources for restoring a half-time librarian, a reading tutor, a grade 7 teaching assistant, a permanent substitute, and the co-curricular activities. This year the CEF is holding a dinner and auction to raise funds; however, it is unknown how much will be raised. Furthermore, Concord has asked the CEF to devote a portion of its fundraising to defray the cost of CCHS programs available to Carlisle students.
Barton recognized that CEF was "very generous" last year. Fox-Melanson was also "very grateful for what CEF has done for us."
Barton concluded the meeting by praising the school committee. "This is terrific work. It is much better to be discussing this budget than the original budget presented last year."
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito