Friday, May 9, 2003
Sedate Town Meeting approves all Warrant Articles; $189K CCHS override passes
After a year of budget anxiety and a month of intense preparations
and lobbying, the town's political fires seemingly burned themselves
out just as the 2003 Carlisle Spring Town Meeting was convened. The
crowd of 433 citizens that gathered at the Corey Auditorium on Monday
night approved all Warrant Articles, most with large majorities and
minimal, if any, discussion.
Article 5, which asked the town to approve an override of the Proposition 2-1/2 levy limit for additional funding for the regional high school, passed almost unanimously, with only one comment from the floor. The meeting only came to life at Article 17, which asked for $150,000 to build the footpaths in the center of town. Proponents and opponents debated the cost, the need and the usage for over one hour, maintaining a very civil tone throughout. The article required a two-thirds vote, which it got easily. (See article.)
After the vote on Article 17, about a third of the attendees headed for the door, leaving Moderator Sarah Brophy pleading for a quorum. At that point both the Moderator and those remaining in the auditorium apparently had only one objective: to finish the Warrant the same night, and as quickly as possible. "Discussion? (three second pause) Hearing and seeing none, I will call for a vote." The Moderator's tempo was rarely interrupted until hands went up for the vote on Article 29, the last one. And it passed nearly unanimously.
Levy limit budget
Article 3 proposed $18,615,460 for the town's operating budget for fiscal year 2004 (FY04). FinCom chair Larry Barton noted that this "levy limit" budget is derived from a 2-1/2% increase in last year's tax levy, the maximum allowed by law without an override, plus new real estate growth of $31 million resulting in new taxes of $466,055. Barton cautioned that the FinCom used the governor's proposed budget to estimate state aid. If the final numbers approved by the legislature are significantly different, a Special Town Meeting may be needed to deal with the overage or underage.
According to Barton, town departments were kept to a 1.5% increase and the Carlisle Public School to 2.625%. A transfer from the Ambulance Fund will help support the Fire Department. Fund transfers to the operating budget include $87,016 from Free Cash and $35,000 from dormant accounts. Excluded debt is currently $1,290,060.
In this levy limit budget, Carlisle's assessment for the Concord-Carlisle High School would drop by $163,000 from last year, due to a drop in Carlisle's student ratio from 0.2932 to 0.2851.
Kerry Kissinger of Elizabeth Ridge asked what the increase in taxes
would be with this budget and with the override. Barton responded that
the Article 3 budget would result in a 2.41% increase on average, and
passage of Article 5 would result in a 2.6% increase. Article 3 passed
Override for CCHS
All the news from the state is bad, said Regional School Committee Chair Betsy Bilodeau of Concord, who spoke to Article 5 which requested additional funding for the high school. Without an override to replace, in part, what will be lost in state aid, she continued, major cuts in personnel, programs and cocurricular activities will be required.
Ralph Anderson of Baldwin Road said the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District has provided "little information to justify their budget." He noted $1.7 million of lost state aid to the high school has been restored by the towns of Concord and Carlisle. "Town departments and town funds have had to tighten their belts," he added. "The high school should share the economic burden already assumed by the towns."
There were no questions for Bilodeau and the Article passed easily.
Tax Relief for Seniors
Four Articles addressed modest tax relief for senior citizens that meet age, income and asset qualifications. Article 12 appropriated $5,000 to renew the senior citizen tax voucher program, successfully initiated last year. Last year 10 of 15 applicants, age 50 and over, worked for the town for a $500 reduction in property taxes.
New tennis courts
Chair of the Recreation Commission Maureen Tarca convinced voters to approve the borrowing of $75,000 for the construction of four new tennis courts on the Banta-Davis Land. Armed with maps and financial information, she pointed out that the placement of the courts will not interfere with any possible future school expansion, and the debt will be repaid by fees for tennis court use.
Personnel Board Chair JoAnn Driscoll chose not to read the lengthy Personnel Bylaw under Article 27, explaining that bylaw defines current personnel practices and personnel administration. Francene Amari-Faulkner of Bedford Road suggested that a town employee be added to the Personnel Board as a liaison. Driscoll replied that this is possible and does not need to be part of the bylaw.
Planning Board membership
Planning Board Chair Kate Reid presented the final Article, establishing two associate member positions to act on special permits in the absence of elected Planning Board members. Alan Lewis of East Riding Drive expressed his concern that appointed members will have the same authority as elected members. Reid acknowledged the point with a shrug. The Article passed.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito