Friday, January 31, 2003
Who's watching the budget-busters?
This year the board of selectmen and the finance committee are determined to develop a no-override budget for fiscal year 2004 and it is not easy. As schools and town departments present their proposed budgets at the weekly FinCom budget hearings, many groups cite heavy "contractual obligations" • budget-busters which they are powerless to change • that either push their budgets above the FinCom guideline or force deep cuts in programs, personnel, or services.
What are these contractual obligations and do we really have no control over them? While Carlisle has little control over expenses such as group health insurance costs and contributions to county retirement funds, other big-ticket items, including salary and benefits contracts for police and teachers, are negotiated by the town with local police and teachers' unions.
Last November the selectmen signed a new three-year contract with the police union, which offered a cost-of-living raise of 3.25% in the current year (FY03), 3.50% in FY04, and 3.75% in FY05. Few would object to these increases (although the selectmen are recommending a 2.0% raise for non-union town employees). However, the police contract also includes a number of additional salary boosts, including between 4% and 8% of the annual base salary for longevity, stipends for special duties such as repairing firearms, the controversial Quinn Bill which gives extra pay for additional experience (for earning academic degrees or just time on-the-job), and additional time off. The entire package amounts to a 10% increase in police personnel cost to the town. Since it was obvious that the next few years would be exceptionally difficult, why did the selectmen agree to this contract?
Now other items in the police budget will have to be cut. Police chief David Galvin has proposed eliminating education, staff meetings and all in-house training. The selectmen suggested limiting shifts and police details.
A similar situation is brewing at Concord-Carlisle High School, where contract negotiations are currently in progress between the teachers' union and the regional school committee (RSC). Under the current contract the cost-of-living increase is 3%. In addition, teachers with less than 17 years of experience receive an additional 4%, for a raise of 7%. Extra stipends are given to those earning credits for a "lane change," to teachers with 15 years of service who won various merit awards, and to those who have taught in the Concord-Carlisle system for more than ten years. Other provisions limit the teaching load to 95 students per week. After researching salaries at comparable schools in the metropolitan area, the Mosquito concluded that senior teachers at CCHS were the highest paid in the state, while junior faculty were simply near the top. (See June 21, 2002 issue.)
RSC has voted to request a 9.32% increase in the CCHS budget for FY04, presumably anticipating little change in the teachers' salary contract. So far they have avoided discussing a no-override budget, canceling appearances before the FinCom in December and January.
If a disproportionate portion of the annual budget increase is invested in salaries, cuts will need to be made elsewhere. Cutting department programs, services, and personnel diminishes the value the town receives. Carlisle's elected officials, including members of the board of selectmen and the regional school committee, must recognize that it is their responsibility to negotiate contracts that recognize the limitations of town support while protecting the town's investment.
What are we teaching?
Many families introduce their children to sports. In doing so, the child comes in contact with a variety of coaches. With three children who enjoy playing sports, we have seen first-hand the different styles and personalities of many coaches. My husband has also been a coach, so we have that perspective as well.
Carlisle is a community of many volunteers. The coaches who step forward are making a huge commitment to a team, and this is important and appreciated. Coaches typically have some knowledge of the sport that they are coaching, and this is also valuable. However, the way that they impart this knowledge is where the different styles come into play.
I am now seeing the role of a coach through the perspective of my daughter, who is one of a group of high school referees for the Carlisle Recreation Basketball League. My husband and I have watched her do her job and watched some of the coaches with whom she has come in contact as well.
Coaches get excited about sports. That is one of the reasons they step forward to coach in the first place. Coaches get into a game, and most want to win. But they are also setting an example for a group of aspiring young athletes. As a visiting town's coach yells from the sidelines at his players, I cringe. But when he yells at one of these teenage referees, I not only cringe, but also observe these young officials stiffen and perhaps try to explain or defend themselves. All while they are running up and down the court with the players, as the game continues.
Basketball fans know what I am talking about. And I invite anyone who has never watched a basketball game to watch one, just for about five minutes. There are a lot of things going on, many for which the referee is responsible. There are personal fouls, time-outs, player substitutions, monitoring the scoreboard and the clock, possession of the ball, putting the ball back into play, to name only a few.
We don't have professional referees in the recreational basketball league. What we do have are some responsible teenagers and young adults who have knowledge of the game, are constantly trying to improve, and who are working their best to see and call the game fairly.
I'd like to see coaches sit back and take a personal time-out once in a while. I'd like coaches to remember what they are there for, and who is learning from their behavior. Coaches have a huge responsibility. They are not only teaching our children specific skills, but sportsmanship and respect. Be passionate and involved? Yes. Be rude and insulting? No. Not to the other coaches, officials, parents or especially any of the young participants.
Thank you to the Carlisle coaches who have not only volunteered to teach young athletes, but who have also been patient and understanding with young referees. As my daughter and others learn and refine their role in the youth sports arena, know that your kindness, politeness and behavior are greatly appreciated.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito