Friday, October 3, 2003
Report of the Carlisle Revenue Enhancement Committee
The following is a synopsis of the major recommendations in the report of the Carlisle Revenue Enhancement Committee, as presented to the Board of Selectmen on September 3. (The full text of the report can be read on the web at www.CarlisleMosquito.org.)
Fees charged for town services
The town should:
• clarify fees for burial in Green Cemetery;
• ensure that fees charged by Recreation Commission offset use of school facilities and upkeep of recreation facilities, and contribute to overhead costs;
• collect fees for registration of businesses operating in town (and to collect personal property taxes on equipment used for these businesses), false fire alarms, escaped livestock;
• establish fees for treasurer's office services, pesticide applicators (i.e. lawn services) commercial uses of transfer station by trash disposal, landscaping and construction firms, use of trails on town land, licenses for tree services
• increase charges for birth and death certificates and marriage licenses, cemetery plots, train and zoning maps, copies of bylaws, rules and regulations of town boards, dog licenses, kennels, registration of businesses operating in town, community garden plots, and afternoon kindergarten.
• raise the $7 charge for copies of the "street list," based on the town census (suggesting the list would be worth $100 or more to direct marketing firms);
• seek higher "in lieu of tax" payments from the state for Great Brook Farm State Park.
The committee encouraged "creative thinking and some compromising" on the part of ConsCom "to contribute to town operating revenue, and that the Gleason Library "rethink" using museum passes to collect revenue, and consider renting the Hollis Room for business use.
The town has set up several "revolving funds" (known as "53" funds) to allow town boards to use fees for professional services and related expenses. "Significant" surpluses have accumulated in many of the funds, and these should be released to the town.
The committee report also noted that some of the fees paid into revolving funds do not reflect the full cost of providing the services, and some purposes for which these funds are used are not subject to the discipline and scrutiny of the town's budget process.
New practices and new initiatives
According to the committee's report, the following major projects "could provide substantial new revenue streams to the town", but "may require significant resources · time, effort and . . . capital." The committee recommended that the selectmen organize groups of volunteers to study the ideas further.
• Cell towers: The town should lease town-owned land to cell tower utilities "and other interested parties" which could pay the town "tens of thousands of dollars" , with minimal capital investment.
• Municipal electric company: The town should buy electricity distribution assets (poles, wires, etc.) from Nstar (formerly Boston Edison), and buy electricity, service and maintenance from another utility. Estimating savings of 20% to 25% of current Nstar rates, the town would save about $38K yearly from its electric bills, but lose about $87K in tax revenues Nstar now pays on the poles.
• Property transfer tax: The town would levy a 2% transfer tax on real estate transactions, to pay for "required infrastructure . . . expansion caused by development." A home rule petition must be approved by the legislature and approval at a town election would be required for implementation.
• Social club: The town could borrow funds or raise private donations to establish a social club as a gathering place and raise "tens of thousands of dollars annually," using profits from the club to pay off any loans and fund town operations. The town could save on costs by converting "an existing town-owned property, such as the Bog House, for the purpose," and charge a small annual membership fee,
• Standing grant committee: A volunteer group could suggest sources and help with developing proposals for grants from both public and private sector, to support projects now deferred for want of funding.
• Life estates: The town would purchase a life estate, paying a "discounted value'" for land owned by long-term residents who cannot afford to stay in town but in this case would be allowed to live on the land till death, when the town would take title and rights to it. Revenue would come from lower costs for future use of the property by the town and avoiding higher operating and capital costs at the schools.
• Multiuse facilities: New town facilities should be designed and existing facilities modified to generate revenue from rentals. Rent from a school gym used as a commercial fitness center, from a hockey rink paired with a gym, from a half-day day-care facility housed in a kindergarten, or a recreation center used by arts groups would defray operating and capital cost for these facilities.
• Volunteer commission: Establishing a volunteer commission could raise extra funds for needs not covered in the town budget and "help fill the personnel gap," saving town funds by finding people to do tasks for town departments that do not require professional skills.
• Leasing capital equipment and town properties: The town could earn income by leasing or renting town assets that are not used 100% of the time (such as paving equipment, shuttle vans, street sweepers) and collecting "voluntary donations" for specific limited use of other town "parks/fields," as for wedding receptions, horse shows, garden shows.
• Recreation user fees: Organizations (not individuals) that use a recreation facility (e.g. baseball diamond, tennis court, hockey rink) created on town-owned land or using town funds should pay a user fee that covers both maintenance and capital costs associated with building the facility.
• Advertising on town properties: Limited advertising on specific town-owned properties (such as the outfield walls at Banta-Davis) could offset operating expenses for the properties.
• Tax enforcement: Many Carlisle residents do not know they are required to pay business personal property tax to the town, according to the committee and the town should do more to enforce this tax. Revenues not from property taxes depend heavily on excise tax for vehicles registered to Carlisle addresses, so the tax collector and police should seek to locate "tax evaders," residents with vehicles registered in another state but based in Carlisle.
• Single sourcing town contracts: The town would save costs by using a single source to supply similar goods and services, such as office supplies and computers, across town departments.
• Energy efficiency: The town would save costs by investing in energy saving assets," such as automatic thermostats and energy efficient glass.
© 2003 The