Friday, April 30, 2004
Two overrides, PATRIOT Act at Town Meeting on Monday
Only one citizen showed up at the annual Warrant hearing held by the Finance Committee last Monday, presumably because everyone else understands and has no questions about the 24 Articles to be considered by the Annual Town Meeting next Monday, May 3. However, for the sake of tradition, a discussion of selected Articles is presented below. A brief summary of all 24 Warrant Articles, in table form, is on page 7.
Article 3 — Operating Budget
Article 3 appropriates funds for the operation and debt service payments for the town for Fiscal Year 2005 (FY05), including all town departments and schools. The proposed balanced budget represents a total increase of $362,779 (1.96%) over the current year (FY04) budget. A $466,209 (4.05%) increase for education is offset by a $358,532 (19.3%) decrease in debt service.
The balanced budget offers the Carlisle Public Schools (CPS) an increase of $170,028 (2.3% over FY04). The CPS budget also benefits from $90,000 received in FY04 under the new special education (SPED) "circuit breaker" formula. The circuit breaker, which reimburses a percentage of SPED costs above a minimum, relies on funding by the legislature. Since the CPS did not expect any circuit breaker revenue in FY04, the $90,000 has been added to the FY05 budget for the school.
Under Article 3, the balanced budget for the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District (CCHS) provides an increase of $238,000 (6.2% over FY04). However, the high school is seeking additional operating funds under Article 5, and funding for capital improvements under Article 8.
Carlisle's Minuteman Regional High School assessment is up 25% to $140,833, reflecting a 17% increase in enrollment plus special education costs. Minuteman's overall budget, at $7.4 million, is $91,000 below FY04. This is caused principally by the state's under- funding of transportation costs. When regional schools were established, the state, to encourage participation, agreed to fund 100% of transportation costs, but has cut support to 34%. As a result, the school has had to sell property to help offset the support reductions.
Of special note this year is an increase in the budget for the Treasurer's office. At $137,153, it is 30% over 2004 and reflects two pre-approved initiatives: the wage and classification pay adjustment and the reorganization of the finance department.
The level services budget for the Gleason Public Library of $420,953 (6.1% increase) does not include Sunday hours, which have been requested for two years now. Sunday openings could not be accommodated within budget without reducing available hours Monday through Friday, which was unacceptable to other constituents and vendors.
On the revenue side, the FY05 budget assumes a $38,361 (2.3%) decrease in state aid and a reduction of 55% in "new growth," the property taxes for newly constructed homes, additions, newly developed parcels and other improvements. However, the town's free cash certification came in at $577,000, $162,000 more favorable than the expected $415,000. This allowed $238,192 to be transferred from Free Cash to assist in funding the proposed balanced budget.
Article 6 — Increased Budget Funding
Article 6 calls for an override budget of $24,089 to fund Town operating expenses for Fiscal Year 2005. This override includes:
Passage of this override will increase the average tax bill by under 0.2%.
The introduction of an EMT stipend would add $1,200 per EMT over the next three years, so the eventual cost would be $18,000 per year — or roughly 50% of the 2004 ambulance budget. The Fire Department has made a strong case for the stipend based upon a comparison to neighboring towns.
Additional funds for the Police Department allow annual firing range qualification for handling and operating firearms, support for departmental and staff meetings, and on-going training. The communications department has experienced turnover in the past, and well-trained dispatchers can save money for the town by effectively screening emergency calls.
Article 8 - CCHS Improvements/Debt Exclusion
by Cecile Sandwen
Article 8 provides authorization to raise funds for immediate needed improvements at CCHS, including portable language lab equipment, flooring and lighting in the lower gym, and locker repair. According to RSC Chair Mike Fitzgerald, equipment in the language lab is twelve or more years old and the technology is outdated. The gymnasium is "in horrible shape" with showers and lockers over thirty years old. All improvements "will be retained in any future renovation — we're not doing anything we'll have to tear out," according to Fitzgerald.
The RSC presented a plan two years ago for major renovations to CCHS. However the $45 million price tag induced sticker shock on the part of town boards in Carlisle and Concord, and the plan was put on hold. This fall the RSC will look again at the project and attempt to present a more acceptable plan to the Spring '05 Town Meetings.
Article 8's companion Article on the Concord Warrant was approved Tuesday. Both Town Meeting votes are subject to approval at the Carlisle and Concord Town Elections.
Article 8 is recommended by the Carlisle Board of Selectmen and FinCom. Vote "yes" to approve raising funds for high school improvements. Vote "no" if you don't want improvements.
Article 17 - CPA Authorization
In 2001 Carlisle voted to join the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act (CPA) and levy a 2% real estate surcharge, with the money to be spent as follows: 10% for open space and recreation, 10% for historic preservation, 10% for community housing, and 70% to be spent according to recommendations of the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPA Committee). The state matches up to 100% of funds collected by the levy. All expenditures of CPA funds must be approved by a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting.
In March the Special Town meeting voted to purchase the 45-acre Parcel A off South Street from the Benfield family, using CPA funds. 26 acres of the parcel were designated as conservation land and the remaining 19 acres were reserved for community housing and one ballfield.
The current balance in the CPA fund is $900,000, with an additional $240,000 expected in May 2004.
Each year as the tax surcharge is collected and the state match is received, the funds go into an Undesignated Community Preservation Fund. Town Meeting then votes to transfer 10% of the annual collections into each of three accounts, the Open Space Reserve Fund, the Community Housing Reserve Fund, and the Historic Reserve Fund. The remainder is left in the Undesignated CPA Fund or transferred to other accounts upon recommendation of the CPA Committee.
Article 17 asks the town to transfer the required 10% allocations of the FY04 and FY05 collections into each reserve fund. In addition, the CPA asks to transfer the following amounts from the anticipated FY05 revenues as follows:
Article 21 — Scenic Roads Bylaw
With this recommended amendment to the town's Scenic Roads Bylaw, the Planning Board is moving to fill a notable void in the existing Article 12 of our General Bylaws. In its present form the local law merely lists 20 roads designated as "scenic" by vote of previous Town Meetings, relying on awareness of the provisions of the state statute of the same name to fill in the gaps.
Anxious to remove public confusion, and often complete ignorance, concerning the state legislation, the Planning Board has drafted an enhanced Carlisle Scenic Roads Bylaw, pursuant to the state statute. The proposed amendments seek to ensure that roads recommended for designation as "scenic" meet clear criteria, that once so designated by Town Meeting, said roadways will not be altered by the cutting or removal of trees or destruction of stone walls without adherence to set procedures and with the consent of the Planning Board. They also ensure that rules and regulations adopted by the Board will be equitably enforced.
It is important to note that the bylaw provisions will apply only to trees and walls within the town's right-of-way, not those on private property. Unfortunately the dimensions of that public territory vary from road to road and often require some research.
Like the state statute, the proposed bylaw specifies that any person or organization may petition the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission and/or the Historical Commission to ask them to recommend a favorite byway for inclusion on the Scenic Roads list.
Hoping to elevate public awareness of a road's status and significance, the planning Board will give written notice to all municipal departments, the Massachusetts Highway Department and utility companies doing business in Carlisle, informing them of Town Meeting actions under the bylaw. In addition it will publish a notice in a local newspaper and notify all abutters that their street has been "honored."
Though the state statute allows for local fines for violations of its provisions, the Planning Board has chosen not to include such assessments in the local version. They do not feel it is necessary at this time and are anxious to allay fears of impingement on personal property rights. However, the local board's leniency does not necessarily indicate a free ride for future violators, since there is a second state statute, the Public Shade Tree Act that gives a municipal Tree Warden (DPW Supervisor Gary Davis in Carlisle) considerable authority over activities within the town's right-of—way and allows for substantial penalties for damage to trees within that strip.
A "no" vote would maintain Carlisle's current Scenic Roads Bylaw.
Article 22 - Board of Health Organization
The Board of Health seeks to increase the size of the board from three to five members. Presently the absence of one member can result in a voting deadlock and postponement of issues until the next monthly meeting.
A "yes" vote would increase the size of the Board of Health from three to five members. The larger board size could accommodate the absence of up to two members, and potentially allow for increased points of view on the board.
A "no" vote would keep the size of the Board of Health at three members.
Article 24 - A Resolution to Protect the Civil Liberties of Carlisle Citizens
This Article asks the citizens to support a resolution placed on the Warrant by the Carlisle Civil Liberties Committee concerning the much-publicized USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.
The resolution asks the town to affirm its belief in the civil liberties guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions, and to assert that certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and "associated federal executive orders" violate some of these civil liberties. The resolution further asks the town to "urge its elected officials in the U.S. House and Senate to monitor the implementation of the Act and to actively work for the repeal of those portions of the Act that violate civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution."
It also resolves to request town and school employees to "act in a manner scrupulously consistent" with these civil liberties, to request that the Town Administrator "report annually to Town Meeting any informationabout the manner in which the PATRIOT Act is being implemented in the Town," and to request the Town Clerk and the Board of Selectmen to post the resolution "prominently" and publish it to various town, state, and federal bodies and officers.
The Article changes no existing law or ordinance, nor does it introduce any new legislation or have any financial impact on the town. Support for or opposition to this Article is simply the expression of opinion. A "yes" vote would demonstrate support for the resolution and its publication as an expression of town opinion and opposition to certain portions of the USA PATRIOT Act and related federal executive orders. A "no" vote would demonstrate opposition to the resolution and its publication as an expression of town opinion with regard to the USA PATRIOT Act and related federal executive orders.
© 2004 The