Friday, September 26, 2003
Concord defeats CCHS override in close vote
The new fiscal year began in July and the new school year started in September, but Concord-Carlisle Regional High school is still without a budget. In a close 52% to 48% vote, Concord residents defeated a ballot question that would have appropriated an additional $83,535 to the high school, matching the funding level approved by Carlisle.
The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) must now decide between two options:
1. Cut the high school budget by about $112K, and reduce the assessment by approximately $84K for Concord and $28K for Carlisle;
2. Call a Joint Town Meeting to try again for agreement on a budget for CCHS. The regional agreement requires that both towns must approve funding at the same level, according to a formula based on the enrollments.
Joint Town Meeting unlikely
Asked about the likeihood of a Joint Town Meeting, RSC Chair and Carlisle resident Michael Fitzgerald said, "I don't think that's going to happen. I assume that [the RSC] will review the budget reductions and then reduce the assessments. I don't see that $100K is a compelling reason to continue the process." The cost of a Joint Town Meeting has been estimated at $15K, primarily for audio-visual hook-ups for the CCHS auditorium and cafeteria to accomodate the crowds from both towns.
While expressing disappointment at the Concord outcome, Fitzgerald admitted "a sense of relief." After a very long process, he feels the RSC needs to move on and deal with the situation.
A meeting of the RSC is scheduled for next Tuesday, at which time the committee is likely to discuss its options.
The latest round of FY04 budget difficulties began in late June, when it became clear that both Carlisle and Concord would receive significantly less state aid than had been anticipated. At that time, the Regional School Committee (RSC) voted to reduce the CCHS budget by 1% and the Carlisle Board of Selectmen supported the 1% cut. Concord Selectmen, however, facing a massive shortfall of $900,000, held out for a 2% budget cut. In August, a Special Town Meeting in Concord approved the override of $83,535 to raise the necessary funds requested by the RSC.
Possible $28K excess
Should the high school assessment be reduced, the Carlisle FY04 budget will have an excess of $28K. According to Town Treasurer and Tax Collector Larry Barton, these funds can be reappropriated at the Special Town Meeting to another line item in the budget or to the towns'a reserve fund. If not spent, the money will fall into free cash at the end of the year. One possible use, Barton speculated, is for the search to replace retiring Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson , which was not funded under the current budget.
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