The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 15, 2006


Town faces $200 million for schools and capital projects

In the next three to 13 years, the Carlisle Public School may ask for $60 million for facility upgrades and expansion, Concord-Carlisle High School may need to be replaced at a cost of $96 million, and the town may need another $45 million for affordable housing, land purchases and other capital projects. So far the numbers are rough and some of the cost will be shared with Concord and, hopefully, reimbursed by the state. However, the remaining cost that will need to be shouldered by Carlisle's 1,800 households is scary. Carlisle's average property tax bill is already among the top 15 towns in the state.

"Obviously we cannot do all of this," says Carlisle Selectman Tim Hult. With relatively little time left before the town needs to respond to the school requests, the Selectman have appointed a Special Committee for Long Term Financial Planning (SCLTFP) to review and prioritize the project list. "The list is large but we now know what is on it and we can go about the tough business of refining it and planning how we can accomplish the essential things," Hult says.

Analyze, prioritize

The committee plans to complete three objectives in the January/February time frame: 1) Provide an analysis to the Selectmen and Finance Committee (FinCom) regarding potential capital projects over the next 25 years and the potential impact on town finances, with emphasis on the two large school projects but accounting for all projects. 2) Develop a model that allows us to project financial implications of future projects, 3) recommend how that model should be updated and by whom and how often.

The model

Town Financial Director Larry Barton has updated a financial model, initially developed by former FinCom member John Nock. "It is a pretty robust model," says Hult. "It uses assumptions for town growth, state aide, increasing receipts, and other sources of revenue. It also makes certain assumptions for growth of operating budgets. We can then apply individual future projects with projected interest rates and borrowing terms to project total town outlays and thus necessary tax revenues and can project the implications of capital spending."

Analyzing the projects

Three teams were formed to collect and report on potential projects over the next 25 years. Hult continues, "This is a first pass and has a wish list flavor to it. It includes the entire $90 million for the high school of which we would only be responsible for approximately 30-32%. It also is before any state reimbursement for school construction (now assumed to be 40%, if you can get it). These are all today's dollars; future projects need cost escalators."

The projects can be roughly broken down into phases:

Where we are

The committee's objective now is to begin to prioritize and refine the needs. The next step is to incorporate a tax incidence measure, to be provided by former Selectman John Ballantine, which projects how incomes might rise over this period. This should help estimate what property tax increases might be tolerable. The committee also hopes to illustrate how the operating budget might be increased if operating expenditures are restrained a bit. They will then run various scenarios of projects against that baseline. While there may be no firm answers, the impact of various options will be illustrated.

The planning team

In addition to Hult, SCLTFP members include Barbara Bjornson and Sue Wolfe, representing the Carlisle Finance Committee; Larry Barton, Carlisle Financial Director; Don Rober, Long Term Capital Requirements Committee; Brian Larson, Planning Board; Christy Barbee, Carlisle School Committee; Michael Fitzgerald, Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee; and Fontaine Richardson, citizen-at-large.

Committee meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is planned for December 19 at Town Hall.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito