Friday, May 16, 2003
We have a match! Carlisle, Concord agree on CCHS budget override
The votes are in! On Tuesday, May 13, Carlisle and Concord voters approved similar Proposition 2-1/2 overrides, thereby establishing CCHS funding at $16,136,558 for next year.
Last year, the independent budget processes of Carlisle and Concord resulted in two different funding levels being approved for the regional high school. A Special Town Meeting and election was necessary, along with a "give back" by Concord, for the two towns to reach agreement on funding for the high school. This year, the leadership of both towns worked together to align override funding levels so that the challenges of last year would not be repeated. Yet, it was up to the voters to approve the same override levels, or reject any override, if the towns' leaders' efforts were to be successful.
Proposition 2-1/2 is a state law which prohibits local taxes from rising more than 2-1/2% over the previous year's levy limit. If a town wishes to raise additional monies, an override must pass by a two-thirds majority at Town Meeting and receive a simple majority vote in a local election.
Carlisle approves override
Carlisle voters faced a simple, if difficult decision whether to approve the one CCHS funding override question on its ballot. By a vote of 722 for and 447 against, Carlisle voters approved the $189,429 override. There were 16 ballots left blank. The proportion of votes for the question was significant at over 60%. This can be attributed to the pro-active leadership of the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, and the Regional School Committee in getting behind a single override with a nominal increase of 3.5%. It should also be noted that the Carlisle Committee for Tax Fairness (CCTF) did not actively oppose this override.
Concord approves matching override
The Concord override situation was both more complex and more contentious. Concord had three CCHS funding overrides on the ballot. The largest override of $724,404 represented a budget that would fund all the services offered the prior year. The middle override level of $475,000, which had the support of Concord's and Carlisle's Selectmen and FinCom, would match Carlisle's override. The smallest override for $247,494 was supported by a minority of Concord's Selectmen. There would only be a budget match with Carlisle if the middle override passed.
The situation was also complex in that Concord faced two override questions for funding the town operating budget and four override questions to fund the Concord Public Schools. If the largest of each override question passed, Concord would have approved overrides totaling $2,703,256. Perhaps because of the magnitude of the overrides presented to the voters, CLOUT, the Concord League of United Taxpayers, a Political Action Committee (PAC), was established to oppose the overrides.
Concord voters rejected the highest CCHS funding override by a vote of 1,795 for and 2,502 against (with 62 blank ballots). The middle CCHS funding override question passed by the very narrow margin of 81 votes. There were 2,186 votes for, 2,105 votes against, and 68 blank ballots. This means that just 50.15% of the voters approved the override. The smallest funding override question also passed, with 2,214 voting for and 2,058 against (87 blank ballots).
For now, the high school's budget for next year is set. Because the Carlisle and Concord overrides matched, there will be no need for another Special Town Meeting or election in either town. Betsy Bilodeau, Chair of the Regional School Committee, adds that the last hurdle for the FY04 CCHS budget process is for the state legislature and governor to deliver the state aid at the funding level anticipated by the towns. Bilodeau anticipates that the statehouse will not have a final budget until the fall.
© 2003 The