Friday, May 7, 2004
Town Meeting Override budget for CCHS passes easily, matching Concord
By a large margin, the Annual Town Meeting on May 3 approved the Article 5 override for Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), supporting the same FY05 budget level approved by Concord's Town Meeting on April 26. Passage of this level of override in both towns brings the high school budget to $16,844,079, a $287,553 increase over the "levy-limit budget" funded by Article 3. Carlisle's portion of this increase is $82,068; Concord will pay $205,485.
Article 5 - Override budget
The budget represented by Article 5 ("override budget") was approved by the Regional School Committee (RSC) and recommended by the Selectmen and Finance Committees of both towns. In Carlisle it will increase taxes by 1/2%.
The override must now be approved at town elections, on May 25 in Carlisle and June 8 in Concord. Under the regional agreement, the two towns must pass the same budget level for the high school, even if that means additional Town Meetings and Town Elections to reach agreement.
CCHS will undergo some administrative reductions even at the override level. If overrides do not pass at town elections, and CCHS is forced to accept the levy-limit budget, the $287,553 in reductions will result in eliminating four teaching positions and cutting the cocurricular and athletics budgets.
Bob Macauley wondered about escalating costs, "Are we looking at a 6% each year?" He noted that "[a retired person] might as well sign over their social security check right now." Carlisle School Committee member Paul Morrison replied the budget increases are largely due to recent declines in state aid. He optimistically assured the town, "This cycle will not last."
Questions about contract negotiations
Selectman John Ballantine asked Fitzgerald to comment on the state of teacher contract negotiations, currently in process, and what salary assumptions were included in the CCHS budget. "We continue to work and meet," replied Fitzgerald, dodging the question. "It has taken five years off my life." He then offered that all step increases (annual increases for additional teaching experience) will be covered, but would not disclose the cost of living increase included in the budget.
Several CCHS teachers held signs and handed out flyers at the entrance to the auditorium, suggesting townspeople "contact the members of the School Committee and encourage them to make us a fair offer." The last teachers' contract, due to expire in July 2003, remains in effect until a new contract is signed.
Ralph Anderson encouraged the RSC to "continue your tough stance in the negotiations" and said of the current contract, "We can't afford it." A Baldwin Road resident had different advice, "Remember teachers are an important and critical part of our schools. Be amicable and fair in negotiations."
Article 8 - Capital improvements
Passage of Article 8 provided $535,000 for capital improvements at CCHS, including protable language lab equipment, new flooring and lighting in the lower gym, and locker repair. Fitzgerald noted that the lockers were installed in the 1960s and asked the voters to "imagine your own bathroom if it were 40 years old and in constant use by hundreds of kids every day."
Fitzgerald noted that the five-year debt will be split between Concord and Carlisle and will add $37,000 , or 0.2%, to Carlisle taxes in the first year, FY06.
Fitzgerald spoke of the value that new Superintendent Brenda Finn and new CCHS Director of Financial services John Flaherty have brought to the process by providing "a fresh set of eyes to view our operation." FinCom Chair Lisa Jensen-Fellows, in recommending Article 5, applauded the Superintendent's "sincere efforts to contain costs while maintaining services to students."
© 2004 The