Friday, February 13, 2004
FinCom budget hearings: Library, Planning Board, Town Clerk, Treasurer
On February 5, the Finance Committee (FinCom) continued its review of fiscal year 2005 (FY05) budgets, meeting with representatives from the Library, the Planning Board, and the offices of the Town Clerk and Treasurer/Tax Collector.
Library hopes to open Sundays
President of the Gleason Public Library Trustees Mary Cheever, supported by library director Angela Reddin, trustee and treasurer Phil Conti and trustee Brook Cragen presented a "guideline budget" of $402,000, which met the FinCom guideline of a 1.5% increase over the current year, FY04. To meet this level, however, Saturday hours will be reduced by two hours and janitorial services from 35 to 34 hours per week. The "level services budget" restores these reductions, and the "growth budget" adds Sunday hours, from noon to 5 p.m. ($16,000) and a part-time children's librarian ($15,000).
Discussion centered on Sunday hours and fees. To offer Sunday hours, which has been requested for two years now, without additional costs, would require reducing hours on other days. Reddin thought this was not a good idea as other constituents and vendors need the library open during regular hours, Monday through Friday. In addition, it would be disruptive to employees.
When the question of fees arose, Conti said that fees were generally at odds with the nature of a free town library, although late fees on books and videos had generated revenues of $9,600 in 2003. If these funds went to the library, rather than the town, they would more than fund the guideline budget.
Always interested in more fees, FinCom Chair Lisa Jensen-Fellows asked about charging a rental fee (e.g., $1) for videos and DVDs. With 1,800 videos/DVD's loaned each month, the fees could be significant. Reddin was uncertain about the potential and further explained that this would be contrary to a library association that allows participating towns to share videos/DVD's, with the proviso that they not charge rental fees.
FinCom's sentiment was to recommend the level services budget and to offer Sunday hours if additional funds were available.
Planning Board seeks funds for cell tower and GIS studies
Planning Board member Tom Lane presented the budgets with support from Planning Board Administrator George Mansfield. At $69,700, the guideline budget met the targeted 1.5% over FY04. The level services budget was up 5%, with consulting funds requested specifically for two key projects: $3,000 for a study of wireless sites and $6,000 for a GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping study. The growth budget added an additional $10,000 in consulting fees for completion of the town's new master plan.
FinCom explained that the wireless sites study will assist the board in modifying bylaws for wireless tower sites, which should reduce litigation and offer potential revenues if cell towers are located on town lands.
When in place, the GIS mapping capabilities at the assessors' office will afford benefits across town departments, which will no longer need to order surveys and studies each time they undertake a project. There is also the potential for public safety, as police and fire services can better understand access roads and building structures while responding to calls.
The master plan request is to continue to update the town's ten-year-old master plan for housing, recreation and transportation, as required by state law. Carlisle's planning project got underway in 2004 with a $30,000 grant from the state. Since this is a non-recurring item, the FinCom suggested that it be funded out of capital funds.
The FinCom favored the level services budget, as the two major projects (cell tower sites and GIS) had strong potential for generating revenues and/or reducing costs.
Clerk, Treasurer get growth budgets
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie presented the Town Clerk budget with little discussion. The guideline budget came in at $40,000, the level services budget required an additional $600, and the growth budget another $700. Given that these increases were due to increased number of elections in a presidential election year, and the amounts are small, the committee seemed comfortable with the growth budget.
Also approved with little discussion was the growth budget of the Treasurer's office. Town Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Barton presented the FY05 budget. While the growth budget, at $145,000, is 37% over 2004, it reflects two pre-approved initiatives: the wage and classification pay adjustment and the reorganization of the finance department.
The FinCom was comfortable with the growth budget.
More free cash than expected?
Following formal budget reviews, FinCom discussed with McKenzie and Barton the status of the wage and class adjustment and the town's free cash position. For a change, the news was favorable.
Wage and class adjustments, approved by the Personnel Board, provide for competitive compensation as compared to comparable jobs at other towns. This ensures that Carlisle is able to attract and retain capable, quality employees. McKenzie reported that the funds required for wage and class adjustments were $25,000 less than initially projected.
Jensen-Fellows reported that the town's calculation of $411,000 in free cash had been submitted to the state for certification. The good news, though, is that an additional $216,000 may be available. The amount was reserved by the Treasurer against a real estate abatement appeal. Now, it appears, the assessor's office had also reserved the amount. Thus, assuming the state certifies the submitted figures, the town may have up to $627,000 in free cash.
© 2004 The