Friday, May 20, 2005
Finance Committee fields last-minute budget adjustments
The Finance Committee met on Monday night to answer questions and discuss any last-minute changes to the budget it will present at next week's Town Meeting. The most interesting request came from Steven Moore, Carlisle School Business Manager, and Christie Barbee, the Chair of the Building Committee, concerning a protest filed by one of the bidders to the town's wastewater treatment plant (see article, page 1). This will result in approximately $156,000 of additional cost to the project if the protest is upheld.
Quarterly Tax Billing
FinCom chair David Trask asked for public comment about the proposed switch to quarterly tax billing (Warrant Article 22). Town Finance Director Larry Barton clarified that, if adopted, the first bills would be mailed in July with payment due August 1, and the second bill mailed in October, due November 1, each bill for one-quarter of the annual total. In response to questions from FinCom members, Barton said that the town is always billing four months in arrears, so this would improve the cash flow and reduce borrowing costs to the town, but would not result in any increases to the taxpayer due solely to the timing of the new billing cycle.
FY05 Budget Transfers
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie reported that approximately $140,000 of unanticipated cost overruns in the fiscal year that closes June 1 could be covered from some surpluses in other accounts. Specifically, McKenzie said, there had been overruns of:
• $15,000 for communications, due to higher than anticipated turnover and resulting training costs;
• $10,000 due to the Board of Selectmen for a housing study related to 40B;
• $10,000 for the police to cover the higher cost of fuel and repairs to a vehicle previously slated to be replaced; and
• $50,000 in increased legal expenses also related to 40B issues.
• The town's reserve fund, designed to cover such contingencies, has only $90,000 in it, leaving a gap of $50,000. McKenzie said that there were surpluses available in the various insurance funds (blanket, unemployment, short- and long-term disability and group health) to cover this. Specifically, she recommended a transfer of $40,000 to the town's reserve fund and $10,000 directly to the Board of Selectmen. A motion to recommend was unanimous.
Town Clerk Redux
Once again, FinCom reviewed the case of expanding the hours of the Town Clerk's office (see Mosquito April 22). Administrator McKenzie reported that the Personnel Board had determined, based on a survey of ten comparable towns, that the average wage was $46,521 for an average of 33 hours per week. Separately, the Board of Selectmen voted to set the Town Clerk's salary at $46,500 and the hours at 35, or seven per day. McKenzie acknowledged that Warrant Article 4 contained an error, and that the actual amount for the budget increase was $58,064, not $65,064 as it appears in the published Warrant.
FinCom member Sue Wolfe expressed disappointment that "we are dealing with three different numbers the week before Town Meeting — the Personnel Board's recommendation, the Board of Selectmen's voted salary, and an erroneous number voted on by FinCom [in preparation for the budget]." Member Ray Wilkes said that Town Clerk is one of the few elected officers the town has, and "folks got a chance to vote with an understanding of what the position entails, so what right do these groups [Personnel Board and Selectmen] have to change things." Member Thornton Ash proposed a vote to recommend, which was defeated 3-2, so the "split vote" position as published in the Warrant stands.
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