Friday, November 18, 2005
FY07 budget kickoff — FinCom issues 2%guideline
The Carlisle Finance Committee (FinCom) recently issued a letter to all committees and departments specifying a guideline budget and outlining a new procedure for budget review. Each year the FinCom oversees the task of determining budgets for each department with the goal of making recommendations for the town-wide budget and any overrides at Spring Town Meeting.
While in the past the process has focused on the funding needed to keep "level services," Chair Thornton Ash this year is hoping to better understand requests for new initiatives. Last year, he says, "The basic budget process worked quite well," but items outside the budget were not always fully understood. "We need to have a good dialog about requests."
Free cash softens 2% increase
The letter offers a 2% increase in operating budgets (excluding salaries) to all departments excluding the schools. An additional amount is included to meet rising fuel costs. The Carlisle School is budgeted at $8,248,354, a 3.7% increase, including salaries. The FinCom expects to match the Concord FinCom guideline for the high school, which proposes an increase of about 3.2%.
Ash notes that although funds are tight as always, the FinCom this year has the luxury of a substantial free cash balance of over $900,000, largely some one-time cash inflows. Rather than allocate these funds immediately, the FinCom is holding them in reserve against unknown factors, such as salaries not yet set, and will likely choose to save some portion against future expenses.
Review process streamlined
The FinCom this year has scraped the preliminary budget hearings usually held in the fall, and instead has asked departments to submit proposals for new initiatives for "in-depth review in late November and December." Those initiatives will be due November 25. Budgets are due December 23 and will be reviewed in January and February.
The FinCom asks that new proposals focus on "the benefits to the community, the downside of not proceeding, the resources required (staff, operating funds, and capital), and financial payback if appropriate." FinCom members will be available to assist with presentations. Also, to avoid duplicating efforts, the FinCom and Long Term Capital Requirements Committee will schedule joint reviews of capital requests.
Ash says, "The committee's focus on new initiatives is motivated by a need to thoroughly analyze potential new spending projects, such as school expansion, affordable housing, fire cisterns and other requests for expansion of town services."The FinCom will examine these requests and make recommendations within the context of debt capacity and revenue expectations. Ash added, "All this needs to be viewed within the context of continued increases in costs Carlisle faces just to provide level services."
With several likely-to-be-proposed projects on the horizon, including housing, fire cisterns, a GIS system, improvements to the Town Common, school buildings, and sports playing fields, Ash suggests, "Let's do them well."
© 2005 The