Friday, May 5, 2006
Two-night Town Meeting approves all Articles
After well-organized Powerpoint presentations and only brief discussions, townspeople approved all Articles presented during Annual Town Meeting held in the Corey Auditorium this past Monday and Tuesday nights. On the first night, 290 townspeople considered Articles on town and school finances, affordable housing and bylaw revisions. A much smaller crowd of 168 met the next night to finish the remaining business of Town Meeting and hear a presentation from the School Building Committee on results of the Master Planning work concerning future school expansion.
Monday's meeting began with the announcement by Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, "There has been no activity under the PATRIOT Act in this community during the previous year." This statement was in response to the 2004 Town Meeting vote requiring an annual report whether Town Offices were aware of any surveillance requests made under auspices of the USA PATRIOT Act. McKenzie has noted previously, however, that if there had been any surveillance activity, the Act would severely limit her ability to mention it.
The first three Articles dealing with Town Reports, FY06 budget transfers and a Chapter 90 fund adjustment were routine and were all quickly passed. Article 4 was not moved. Article 5, authorizing salaries for elected officials, also passed without discussion.
Balanced budget passes
Article 6 included the town's balanced budget appropriations totaling $20,203,731. Moderator Tom Raftery made a point to encourage comments or questions, noting that last year Town Meeting approved the main budget Article in all of "six seconds."
This year's attendees were only slightly more vocal. Gordon Munson of Wildwood Drive asked about the effect of budget increases on taxes. Finance Committee Chair Thornton Ash answered that passage of Article 6 would raise real estate taxes roughly 1%. Kerry Kissinger of Elizabeth Ridge Road thought it was hard to fully understand school funding increases, because parts of the school budgets are included under other town budget line items, such as "insurance and benefits."
Selectman Doug Stevenson explained why the stabilization account transfer in Article 7 is needed yearly. After the Robbins-Hutchins (formerly Wang-Coombs) land purchase, a grant was received and placed in the Stabilization Fund with the understanding that a portion would be used yearly to offset the open space purchase.
For details of Article 8 and the other affordable-housing-related Articles (25, 28 and Motions 4 through 6 of Article 26) see "Carlisle says it's serious about affordable housing," on this page.
The state law known as "Proposition 2-1/2" limits the amount that real estate taxes can be raised each year without an override vote. Sally Naumann proposed an unsuccessful amendment to Article 9, asking to reduce the override from $150,766 to $75,000, removing all supplemental funding for the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS). Her reason was that the high school had misused funds and violated the public trust when it allowed free use of the CCHS auditorium for a musical program on Sunday, April 9, that benefitted a private organization. Regional School Committee (RSC) member Michael Fitzgerald explained that the program was hosted by the CCHS select chorus and SPECTRUM, the high school's gay-straight alliance. Both the select chorus and the Boston Men's Gay Chorus performed, and raised approximately $2,000 which was to be shared by SPECTRUM, and PFLAG, a non-CCHS organization of parents with lesbian and gay children. The amendment was defeated and the main motion carried.
A total of $225,010 in repairs and equipment financed within the balanced budget was approved under Article 10. Larger items included were: roof repairs, a police cruiser, a DPW dump truck, new computer equipment and outside safety railings for the Carlisle School.
New fire truck
Fire department requests were all granted this year. These included Article 13, to replace a 25-year-old fire truck at a cost of $500,000, as well as Article 14, authorizing $200,000 for the construction of cisterns. These water storage devices would be in three areas: Oak Knoll Road/Hemlock Hill, Carlisle Center and the Autumn Lane/Estabrook Road/ Bellows Hill Road area.
Fire Chief David Flannery explained that in the last two decades the town has often been able to incorporate cisterns at no cost to the town in the construction plans of new housing developments, but some regions of town — particularly away from the newer subdivisions — need additional sources of water. Currently, the town has 28 cisterns, which augment the small fire ponds first dug in 1927, and the natural water sources scattered through town.
A total of $2,044,900 was approved for the Banta-Davis field expansion under Article 15 (see article on page 1 for details.)
Articles 16-24 were taken up when Town Meeting reconvened on Tuesday, after a forty-minute delay until enough people arrived to meet the 150 quorum requirement. Article 16 authorized the use of $160,720 from Free Cash to cover FY07 appropriations. John Ballantine of Fiske Street asked how the $3.5 million in debt exclusions passed the previous night would impact taxes. Finance Committee (FinCom) member John Nock answered that the balanced budget, Article 6, and the override, Article 9, combined would raise taxes by roughly 1.8%, but that calculating the effect of the debt exclusions was more complex, because one must estimate interest rates and when the projects will be ready for borrowing. Nock expected no increase in taxes from debt exclusions 1-5 during the next year, and a 1% tax increase the year after that. In the fourth year the cumulative effect is expected to reach a maximum of 3%, before falling off as the debts are paid.
Article 17 was a routine annual authorization of the revolving funds used by many departments to allow monies collected through fees to be used within the department that collected them, rather than having all revenues go into the town's General Fund. New this year was authorization for funds relating to the Building Inspector and Council on Aging, both of which collect user fees.
Town Meeting quickly passed Article 18, authorizing the borrowing of $160,720 for repairs to River Road and Stearns Street, in anticipation of reimbursement by the state Chapter 90 funds.
Selectman Tim Hult explained Article 19, which allows the town to grant a tax exemption to "a small number of people who meet strict income and asset requirements." The exemption only affects 12 or 13 residents, but must be reauthorized annually. The article passed.
There were no questions as voters passed Article 20, which authorized the Selectmen to extend the contract with CCTV until October 13, 2011, to synchronize the ending date with that of the town's cable television contract with Comcast.
Stevenson explained that the town must have an easement for emergency access to the cell tower being constructed on the Anderregg property off Bedford Road, and Article 21 authorizes that process. When Stevenson was asked why the word "purchase" appeared in the spoken motion but not in the earlier printed version of the motion, he said it was on advice of Town Counsel and only to cover a possible situation where one party desired a one dollar "purchase" transaction, rather than an outright gift.
Since Article 22 had been withdrawn, the meeting turned to Article 23, and quickly voted to accept Wilkins Lane, located in the Tall Pines subdivision, as a town way.
Finally, Article 24 passed with equal speed, as the Selectmen were authorized to enter into inter-municipal agreements to allow Carlisle to exchange services with other towns during an emergency.
School Building Committee presents expansion plans
After the conclusion of the Warrant Articles, the Moderator recognized School Building Committee (SBC) Chair Christy Barbee, who spoke a few words about the master planning process and future building needs of the Carlisle School. Barbee said the recently completed master plan studied demographics and enrollment trends, evaluated the existing buildings on the school campus, and developed a flexible, phased plan for future expansion and renovation options. "We are looking at what is best for a 21st-century educational program for a town such as this," Barbee said.
As reported in the Mosquito last week on page 1, one option, involving construction of a new three-story building near the Corey Building, is estimated to cost about $66 million. Two or three times Barbee inadvertently referred to the cost as $66,000 instead, and joked, "Am I in denial?" She stressed that the SBC is looking at a two-phased implementation, and would strive to keep costs low and avoid frills.
Barbee thought the SBC will be ready this coming fall to ask for $1.5 to $2 million in design funds. Construction funds will be sought at either a Spring or Fall Town Meeting in 2007, to allow construction to begin in 2008.
Raftery concluded Town Meeting by recognizing Art Milliken, Honored Citizen of 2005, who is moving to Concord and for whom this is the last Carlisle Town Meeting. Milliken smiled, nodded to the Moderator, and made a motion to adjourn.
© 2006 The