Friday, January 23, 2004
$90K from state gives FY05 Carlisle School budget a boost
On January 14, a record cold night in Carlisle, the Carlisle Finance Committee (FinCom) examined the cold hard budget issues facing the Carlisle Public School (CPS). In a time of declining state aid and increasing but unfunded state and federal educational requirements, the town will struggle to maintain "level services" in FY05. However, a newly funded state program, the Special Education Circuit Breaker, may provide the funds needed to allow CPS to meet its "No Child Left Behind" budget, without requiring any override of Proposition 2-1/2.
Carlisle School Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson and members of her team presented the proposed school budget to the FinCom as part of the FY05 budget review process. Supporting Fox-Melanson at the meeting were School Business Manager Steven Moore, Director of Special Support Services Linda Stapp, Carlisle School Committee (CSC) Chair David Dockterman, and CSC Vice-Chair Suzanne Whitney Smith.
NCLB budget becomes guideline budget
In December the FinCom had set the guideline for the FY05 school budget at 1.8% above the FY04 appropriation, or $7,593,276. If all revenue assumptions proved correct, this guideline budget would be funded without any override.
At the budget hearing Fox-Melanson provided an overview of two budgets: the "No Child Left Behind" budget (NCLB) and the "Level Services" budget. The NCLB budget asks for $7,683,276, a 3.0% increase over FY04. However, with an additional $90,000 from the state under the Special Education Circuit Breaker law, the NCLB budget would require no additional local appropriation and was, therefore, presented by the school team as a "guideline budget."
The Circuit Breaker money is allocated directly to the Carlisle School to offset extraordinary costs for students requiring costly and complex special education services.
The school's Level Services Budget includes all items in the NCLB budget, but seeks additional funding to maintain all programs and positions currently offered by CPS. To accomplish this, an additional appropriation of $58,869 would be required. The Level Services Budget would total $7,742,145, which represents a 3.8% increase over FY04's budget. This was the preferred budget from CPS's standpoint as it best "maintain(s) the Carlisle Public School's educational standards within the context of fiscal responsibility."
Moore discussed the budget process and key assumptions upon which the NCLB Budget was built, including:
• no substantial enrollment increase for the 2004-2005 school year;
• no known significant increases in special education;
• continuation of fees at current budgeted levels;
• meeting all contractual obligations;
• continuation of some outside funding for the programs, consistent with FY04;
• 1.7% inflation on necessary supplies and services.
Moore pointed out a critical fact facing Carlisle and other towns: the decline in state aid. This reduction comes at the same time that mandated requirements such as NCLB have put pressure on available resources.
The NCLB/Guideline budget includes $36,400 in unfunded requirements needed to meet NCLB and other mandated programs. The largest amount ($20,000) was for additional labor to process 48,000 data elements required three to four times per year for NCLB. The remainder was for various training programs to help valued CPS employees meet state educational requirements. Fox-Melanson explained that many current employees were not "highly qualified" as defined by NCLB, and would need to be replaced by more expensive college graduates if they did not receive required training.
Level Services budget
The Level Service budget, which seeks an additional $58,869, was developed to ensure that all programs and positions currently offered by CPS would continue into next year. One key difference, however, is that the Level Service budget funds several programs that had previously been funded by outside sources, specifically $19,179 in stipends for Intramural sports, Math League, Yearbook, Homework Club, and Student Council. In addition, there is $31,000 for a Reading Specialist, and a $6,000 provision for extraordinary maintenance needed to maintain the integrity of the CPS infrastructure.
Moore also presented $67,677 in Unmet Needs. These are desired programs that the School Committee was unable to fund in the two budgets. A breakdown of these unmet needs is as follows:
FinCom members thought that fund-raising efforts from the Carlisle School Association (CSA) and the Carlisle Educational Foundation (CEF) might be directed at these programs. CSA and CEF efforts raised $88,000 in FY03 and $110,000 in FY04. While it was acknowledged that some funds would likely be available from CSA/CEF, no amount was explicitly assumed in the FY05 CPS budgets.
Fox-Melanson also reviewed requested capital expenditures with the FinCom. Highlighted were industrial dehumidifiers at $5,535, technology upgrades, principally computers, at $26,138; replacing the Kubota Tractor with a truck for $28,000; and replacing the dining room furniture, $25,000. The dehumidifiers would address possible future mold issues, which cost $50,000 last year to repair. The truck would replace the 17-year-old Kubota tractor, and will be used for snow removal and other functions. The dining room furniture is also 17 years old and considered a safety issue as well as an "embarrassment."
"Good citizens in trying times"
Both during and after the CPS presentation, FinCom members were complimentary about the effort and quality of the budgets presented. FinCom Chair Lisa Jensen-Fellows characterized the preparers of the CPS budget as "good citizens in trying times." Thorton Ash, who served as FinCom's liaison to CPS, agreed that there was "little wiggle room" and that the effort was impressive, especially when "80-90% is contractually in place" and thus "uncontrollable."
Leaning toward Level Services
While no final decisions were made, FinCom members appeared inclined to recommend the Level Services budget. They were hopeful that this could be accomplished without an override, perhaps from Free Cash or other receipts. They did note, however, that all budgets would need to be reviewed since "unfunded" line items may arise in other town budgets, and noted as an example the $18,000 exposure in the Town Hall budget reviewed the prior week.
© 2004 The