Friday, March 14, 2003
Governor's budget hits Carlisle
Months of work by the Carlisle FinCom to craft a workable 2004 budget have been upset by the announcement of substantial cuts in state aid, based on the governor's budget presented in late February. As one of the designated "affluent" towns, Carlisle is targeted for the maximum 10.5% decrease in state aid, significantly more than what was allowed for in the FinCom's guideline budget. In addition, account con-solidation and student assessment changes may increase that cut to more like 13%. "It appears these are significantly larger cuts than represented by the governor," says FinCom chair Larry Barton.
Much remains uncertain. Information has not yet been available on the status of several accounts, including school construction (last year $700,854), police incentive ($35,500 in '03), and other smaller accounts. In addition, the combination of cuts, account consolidation, and legislative changes has made it difficult to sort out the entire effect. For example, Chapter 70 money to the Carlisle School, $733,483 in '03, is now $625,858, what appears to be a 15% cut. However consolidation of the school transportation account (last year $53,147) into the Chapter 70 account, without additional funding, means a 20% cut in the combined accounts. "Definition is a problem," says Barton. A "mitigation" account to offset overall cuts below the 10.5% level restores some funds to the town.
Another source of confusion is the handling of Chapter 70 state aid to the Concord-Carlisle High School. In addition to cuts in aid, the governor's office has changed the delivery so the money goes to each town instead of to the regional school as before. The fincom plans to handle this without changing the budget. Last year, Chapter 70 money paid to the region for the high school totaled $1,772,474, whereas this year the total paid to the two towns is $1,000,035 ($287,780 to Carlisle and $712,255 to Concord) a 44% reduction (in this case, transportation money is still separate from Chapter 70, but cut by 50%). A change was also made in the assessment formula in a way that makes Carlisle's cut greater than Concord's. The formula has not been detailed, according to town administrator Madonna McKenzie, "There's no breakdown of how we got from there to here."
Given the cuts Carlisle has sustained, the expectation that Carlisle could meet the Concord FinCom's recommended level for the CCHS without an override has been dashed. "Now that cannot happen," says Barton. (See article page 5.)
McKenzie notes the governor's budget is probably a worst-case scenario and some of the cuts will likely be moderated as the budget goes through the state legislature. However, it may be several months before the final level of state aid cuts is known, and for the time being, the town will have to plan for the worst.
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