Friday, March 17, 2006
FY07 new debt may top $2 million
On March 6, Don Rober of the Long Term Capital Requirements Committee was pleased to present the Finance Committee (FinCom) with an FY07 budget of $157,010. This is $17 less than the $157,027 guideline issued in the fall, and involved deferring or denying approximately $200,000 in requests.
But this exercise in fiscal frugality may be overshadowed by proposals for purchases financed through debt. Unless something drops off the table between now and Spring Town Meeting, over $2,000,000 in debt exclusions may be proposed. Those include building upgrades for the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) costing $360,000, a boiler for the Carlisle Public School (CPS) Wilkins Building at $350,000, a new fire engine at $500,000, fire cisterns for Oak Knoll and the Town Center for $200,000, and recreation fields on Banta-Davis for $1,000,000.
Are CCHS repairs wasted?
Much discussion concerned the proposed debt exclusion of $360,000 for CCHS which includes an upgraded fire alarm system of which Carlisle's share is $108,000, asbestos abatement ($90,000), a new intercom system ($105,000), and other needed building and safety improvements. Said Rober, "I get the impression we're flushing money," given a new building is planned.
But Regional School Committee member Mike Fitzgerald clarified that the building project currently is on hold, "The region will not move forward on the high school in the absence of funding from the state." If state funding for buildings reopens in 2007, the RSC will bring a "general schematic" to the town next year and ask for full design funds in the spring of 2008. Construction would then begin in 2009 and completion would be 2012 at the earliest. "In the meantime, we must address health and safety issues" such as the lack of intercoms, which prevents quick emergency response and provides no means for communicating in a lock-down situation. It was noted that cell phone reception is unreliable at the high school.
If state funds are not allocated, Fitzgerald said the RSC will have to design a project of "some other scope" than now planned. The FinCom's John Nock wondered, "Why wait for the state?" He noted the Carlisle School is going ahead with plans, and a new high school, at a ballpark estimate of $30,000,000 for Carlisle's assessment, is not that much more than the $20 to $25 million expected for a CPS expansion project. But Chair Thornton Ash said "Concord would not go forward without state aid," even if Carlisle were amenable.
Rober voiced his fear that "Worst case, we have no new school and $2 to $3 million requests each year forever." He added, "The longer it goes, the more gut-wrenching it gets" knowing most capital investment will be lost with the new building.
Many items deferred, Free Cash for truck, shed
Items that were deferred and will not be in the FY07 budget included CPS Magic Boards ($24,900), windows for the police station ($20,000), police billings software ($10,000), a sand truck ($35,000), one of two dump trucks requested ($43,000), painting of the Town Hall ($16,000), Town Hall carpeting ($15,000), and human resources software ($40,000). A request for temporary classrooms at CPS was withdrawn as too expensive.
One DPW dump truck ($43,000) and roofing for the shed at the transfer station ($25,000) were recommended for a capital exclusion (financing without debt outside the levy.) At the FinCom meeting on March 8, Ash noted that "Free cash should apply to one-time expenses such as the DPW truck and roof" and proposed a transfer of $68,000 for those purposes.
Nock noted that since these two items are necessities, another path would be to include them under the levy and raise the guideline budget for LTC. Town Administrator Madonna Madonna said the selectmen had voiced support for a higher guideline for LTC, now set arbitrarily at 1% of the levy. Items proposed under the LTC budget must pass only at Town Meeting, whereas capital exclusion items must also pass at Town Elections. The FinCom voted unanimously (with Barbara Bjornson absent) to fund the shed and truck through a transfer of Free Cash.
The LTC and FinCom proposals will now be offered to the selectmen, who will make the final decision on the Warrant to be presented at Town Meeting in May.
© 2006 The