Friday, May 2, 2003
Revenue Enhancement Committee searches for savings, new $$
"There is a challenge facing the town. Taxes are high in absolute terms, and rising quickly," said Lisa Jensen-Fellows, co-chair with Frank Golis of Carlisle's Revenue Enhancement Committee (REC), when the committee spoke at the Board of Selectmen's April 22 meeting. The committee is looking for ways to slow the growth in local real estate taxes. Jensen-Fellows said the group has focused on three areas: examining fees charged by town departments, the special accounts which receive the fees, and brainstorming new ideas for ways the town might generate revenues.
The Selectmen agreed with the committee's view that the fee for a service should cover the cost of the service, and not be used as a method to generate additional revenue. There was also agreement that fees were most appropriate for those services which were used by a small segment of the population. On the other hand, services such as the transfer station, which are used by most residents were best paid for though property taxes. Jensen-Fellows said, "We don't recommend soaking people with fees."
The REC has found that some departments update their fees frequently, and cited the Recreation and Conservation Commissions as two groups "really on top of their fees." In other cases, it may be more difficult to calculate the exact cost of the service. To help determine reasonable fees, the REC is gathering information about what other towns charge for various services. Jensen-Fellows hoped this survey process will be repeated every few years.
Extra cash in fee accounts?
Carlisle has a number of special accounts, called 53E1/2 accounts, set up to receive the fees charged by various departments. For example, when a homeowner repairs a septic system, the board of health charges a fee to cover the cost of inspecting the project. The REC believes that a number of these accounts have accumulated excess funds over the years — perhaps as much as $50,000 of the total of roughly $350,000 in the accounts. The committee recommended the town make new estimates of the cost to process various applications and services, and work out a mechanism for releasing the surplus funds to the town.
Ideas for new revenue
REC committee member Roy Watson said they were searching for things which might become ongoing sources of revenue, not just one-time events. The committee has collected about three dozen ideas, and has categorized them according to small or large predicted revenue, and the difficulty of implementing the idea. Projects judged to either have a large payback, or be easy to implement are listed below.
The REC expects to finish gathering data, and present a prioritized list of recommendations to the selectmen within the next few months.
Easy-to-implement projects - large payback
· Cell towers on town land.
· Introduce a business tax rate; to include home-based businesses.
· An "affinity" credit card for town residents.
· Organize and expand the roles of town volunteers.
Easy-to-implement projects — smaller payback
· Use single-source contracts for all services across all town boards.
· Land development fees for new construction.
· Land stripping fee for removal of 10+ trees > 5 inches in diameter.
· Recreation department fees.
· False fire alarm fees.
· False police alarm fees.
· Out-of-town usage fee for all town facilities, services, publications, etc.
· Transfer station construction dumpster fee for contractors working on Carlisle homes not utilizing on-site dumpsters (i.e. $300.)
· Increase Foss Farm usage fee.
· Library DVD rental fee.
· School extracurricular activity fee.
· Fees for plowing private roads.
Difficult-to-implement projects - large potential payback
· Outsourcing/sharing town services and assets (eg. ladder truck.)
· Town for-profit day care center.
· Town building energy conservation initiative.
· Town social club.
· Lease Cranberry Bog or Greenough Land for a commercial skating rink or driving range.
· Town electric company.
· Collaborative public/private bus service.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito