Friday, April 28, 2006
Town Meeting Town seeks $150K override for schools
Nearly 70% of Carlisle's annual expenditures go to support its three schools: the Carlisle Public Elementary and Middle Schools (CPS), Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS), and Minuteman Regional High School (MMRHS). As in past years, operating expenses are rising faster than annual tax limits set by Proposition 2-1/2.
The "balanced budget" requested under Article 6 offers a 1.9% increase over current school budgets, but that increase does not cover rapidly rising costs due to contractual salary increases, transportation costs, health insurance and energy costs. Consequently, Article 9 requests additional funding of $75,000 for CPS and $75,766 for CCHS, which must be approved as an override of Proposition 2-1/2. Although costs at MMRHS are rising similarly, Carlisle's FY07 assessment for MMRHS is lower than FY06, as fewer Carlisle students attended the school than in past years.
Articles 10, 11 and 12 provide capital equipment and facilities improvements for the schools.
Article 6 — CPS Operating Budget
Salaries at the Carlisle Public Schools constitute 84% of the total operating budget. Under a new three-year contract, teacher salaries will rise 5.5% this year. Other cost increases include:
• $40,000 additional funding for two new principals, recently hired (Mosquito, March 31);
• $25,000 to fund a technology aide, currently funded on a one-year basis by the Carlisle School Association (CSA) and a Math specialist, currently partly funded by a Title1 grant that the school will not be receiving in FY07;
• $15,000 for an English Language Learner (ELL) tutor that is now required by the state;
• Additional mentoring and professional development programs, to integrate 31 new teachers;
• $22,000 additional cost for operating the new wastewater treatment plant;
• $31,803 for the new school bus contract;
• $53,000 in increased energy costs.
Although Special Education costs will rise 8.3%, the increase is offset by a reduction in out-placement tuition. World language programs, including Spanish and Chinese, will be funded by grants from the Carlisle Education Foundation (CEF) and the Carlisle School Association (CSA).
Article 6 — CCHS Operating Budget
The levy limit budget for Concord-Carlisle High School under Article 6 is $18,909,497, of which $4,328,209 is Carlisle's share. Carlisle's portion is based on the number of Carlisle students at the school in the preceding year. Since the number fell slightly in 2005-06, the cost to Carlisle is below that in FY06, providing a measure of relief for Carlisle taxpayers.
Costs that are hard to control also make up the bulk of the inflation in the CCHS budget. Cost increases include:
• $443,400 for contractual increases in salary;
• $126,300 for health insurance;
• $365,000 for Special Education, including out-placement tuition;
• $100,000 for utilities and fuel;
• $164,700 for new staffing, including adding technology support, increasing the hours for a music teacher by 0.125 FTE (full time equivalent) and for a guidance counselor by 0.25FTE, and increasing staffing for the STEP Program which helps a small number of disadvantaged students who would most likely not graduate without this program.
It is important to note that the regional school budgets include insurance and benefits for CCHS and MMRHS employees. In Carlisle, the town budget includes insurance and benefits for all town employees including CPS personnel.
Article 6 — MMRHS Operating Budget
Minuteman Regional High School, located in Lexington, provides an alternative for Carlisle students wishing a technical education. Although the average cost per Carlisle pupil will rise by 21% over FY06 to $19,404, a reduction in students means the assessment will fall to $183,948. Currently nine full-time Carlisle students attend the school, versus eleven last year.
The proposed MMRHS budget of $16,139,498 is an increase of 2.8% over FY06. The Minuteman Regional School District (MMRSD) consists of 16 communities which share the cost of running the school according to a formula based on enrollment, ability to pay, and numbers of students in special education (SPED). Carlisle's comparatively high per-pupil assessment reflects the cost of full-time enrollment and the fact that seven of nine students receive SPED services at a surcharge of $4,250 per student. In addition, Carlisle absorbs a "state-required minimum" assessment based on town revenues. This number increased 6% to $119,956 for FY07, in spite of the fact Carlisle is sending fewer students.
Article 9 — Overrides for CPS and CCHS
In order to fund the budgets recommended by the respective school committees and accepted by the Finance Committee, Article 9 asks the town to provide an additional $150,766, consisting of $75,000 for CPS and $75,766 for CCHS. If the override passes, the Carlisle Public School budget will be $8,416,520, an increase of 5.8% over FY06.
The CCHS budget will be 19,189,282, a 6.9% increase. Of this amount, $16,918,192 will be assessed to the two towns, and the remainder will be covered by other sources of income, including state aid. Carlisle will be assessed 27.08% of the CCHS override budget, or $4,581,446.
By law both towns must fund the regional school budget at the same level. On Monday evening the Concord Town Meeting approved an override for CCHS. Carlisle needs to appropriate the additional $75,766 to meet Concord's level of support. Should Carlisle fail to approve the override, a joint Concord-Carlisle Town Meeting will be held to decide the high school budget. Concord voters outnumber Carlisle voters by at least three to one.
What will be cut from the school budgets if the override does not pass? School personnel say that they will review the overall budget to make the necessary downward adjustments, but suggest a number of discretionary areas for cuts. CPS says that the following may be cut if the override does not pass: technology support, building maintenance, professional development, library support and instructional supplies. CCHS may cut or eliminate the senior project, STEP staffing, the second campus monitor, a social worker position in the guidance department, and reduce teacher staffing by 1.375 FTE.
The override amounts must also be approved by voters at the Carlisle and Concord Town Elections. Carlisle votes on Tuesday, May 10.
Article 10 — Capital Equipment
$81,360 out of the total of $225,010 in long-term capital requests is designated for items for the Carlisle Public Schools, including:
• $7,000 for lockers;
• $6,000 for repairs to the Robbins Building roof;
• $20,340 for safety railings;
• $2,780 for furniture;
• $36,000 for computer equipment;
• $9,240 for science tables;
Capital equipment requests will be funded under the balanced budget, and will not require bonding or an override.
Article 11 — CCHS improvements
Article 11 asks for $1,200,000 in capital improvements to CCHS, 27.08% of which will be Carlisle's portion. The improvements include:
• $350,000 for a new intercom system;
• $360,000 for new fire doors and associated hardware needed to integrate the fire alarm system;
• $300,000 for asbestos abatement and improvements to the safety systems in the science labs;
• $60,000 for a better ventilation system in the art and photo room;
• $30,000 for installation and housing of an emergency generator
• $100,000 for energy-efficient lighting and other repairs.
Although the school is working on a proposal for extensive renovations or a whole new school, the Regional School Committee believes some improvements must be done now. 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 must be addressed.
The amount for CCHS improvements must also pass at the ballot on May 10.
Article 12 — CPS Boiler Replacement
Article 12 requests funds, $350,000 to $400,000, for the replacement of the two boilers that provide heat for 50% of the CPS campus. Both boilers have exceeded their expected service life and one is in need of significant repair. RDK Engineering has recommended the replacement of the two existing boilers with four high-efficiency boilers. Replacement would allow for significant savings in heating costs. The estimated payback period for the new boilers is between 10 and 13 years.
The amount for the CPS boilers must also pass at the ballot on May 10.
Proposition 2-1/2 and the levy limit
Proposition 2-1/2 is a state law which limits the amount of real estate taxes a town can raise each year without an override. An override is added to the levy limit base for the following year, enabling the town to raise additional funds next year under Proposition 2-1/2. Consequently, if Article 9 passes, the levy limit will increase by $150,766.
Articles 11 and 12 are debt exclusions, which are temporary tax increases. The amounts approved under these Articles do not become part of the levy limit.
Mosquito reporters Darlene D'Amour, Ginny Lamere, and Cecile Sandwen contributed to this article.
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