Friday, April 30, 2004
Concord Town Meeting approves override for CCHS Towns match if Carlisle approves Article 5
In a vote that endorsed the spirit of compromise, Concord's Town Meeting on April 26 approved the $16,844,079 budget level for the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), as recommended by the Regional School Committee (RSC) and supported by the Concord Selectmen and Concord Finance Committee.
For the first time in a long time, the boards of both Concord and Carlisle are in complete agreement on a budget for CCHS, with the Carlisle Selectmen and Finance Committee also supporting the RSC-recommended budget offered in Warrant Article 5 for the Carlisle Town Meeting next Monday, May 3. (See explanation of Articles 3 and 5 on this page.)
Concord voters chose the middle of three proposed overrides for CCHS. The lowest Concord override matched the CCHS budget level in Carlisle's Article 3 (if the override under Carlisle's Article 5 does not pass). The highest override, placed on the Concord Warrant through a citizens petition signed by over a thousand Concord residents, would have restored funds lost from "level services," the level at which all high school services offered last year are maintained without cuts or consolidation. The middle override approved in Concord, the RSC-recommended level, is $400K less than level services, achieved through cuts in administration, reductions in custodial services, increases in some class sizes, and elimination of the subsidy to Adult and Community Education.
RSC member Mike Fitzgerald explained why the committee supported the reductions. "The School Committee worked cooperatively with the Boards of Selectmen and Finance Committees of both towns in adopting a budget that maintains student achievement and protects programs while recognizing fiscal realities." He noted the cuts to level service "involved a reorganization of administration and a slight increase in some class sizes, but did not impact student programs." Regarding the loss of the subsidy to adult education, he explained, "While we support community education, our focus has to be on public education nine through twelve." It is expected fees will make up for the lost revenue.
While it may surprise some that the RSC did not support the efforts of the petitioners to increase funding for the high school, the need for budget resolution sooner rather than later was compelling. Since the petition was not circulated in Carlisle, passage of the petition level budget would have created an automatic mismatch between Concord and Carlisle. Under the regional agreement, Concord and Carlisle must agree on a level for the high school, with a joint Town Meeting the final step if resolution can't be reached. Two years ago, Carlisle and Concord passed different budget levels, and resolution of the high school budget stretched into the summer. Hiring was delayed and planning for the upcoming school year put on hold until a second Carlisle Town Meeting could be convened to end the impasse. Rather than push for a larger budget with a certainty of a mismatch and delay, the RSC preferred a compromise budget with a high probability of passage in both towns.
The Concord petition amendment was defeated 354 to 562. The RSC-recommended budget was approved overwhelmingly, without a count. It must now be approved at the Concord elections on June 8.
If Carlisle's Town Meeting and elections approve the $82K override of Proposition 2-1/2 for CCHS (Article 5), then agreement on the high school budget will have been reached.
Proposition 2-1/2 is a state law which limits annual increases in property tax revenues. An override of Proposition 2-1/2 which passes at Town Meeting, must also be approved by ballot at a town election.
© 2004 The