Friday, January 26, 2007
FinCom presses Carlisle School to explain 5.8%budget request
On Monday evening, January 22, the Carlisle Public School came before the Finance Committee (FinCom) to go over two proposed FY08 budgets, one designed to meet the levy limit increase of 3% over the current year, and another with an increase of 5.8%. (See accompanying story starting on page 5.) Since neither is a level services budget, which would have required a 6.8% increase, cuts are inevitable.
FinCom member David Trask questioned the cost of new programs. "World Language is broadening the educational base. I don't want to constrict the basic educational base. Can you afford the World Language Program?" Superintendent Marie Doyle replied, "I think it's extremely important."
Trask continued, "There is a strategic problem here with Proposition 2-1/2 and school budgets that are going up by 6-8%. There are overrides, sizeable ones that will fail. There is a conflict between the levy and the rate of growth. Many people don't understand it." Proposition 2-1/2 is a state law that limits annual increases in property tax revenues to 2-1/2% plus new construction.
Doyle replied, "It's happening everywhere in Massachusetts. We have to advocate for our students."
FinCom member Barbara Bjornson pointed out that it is critical for citizens to understand the cost drivers in the school budget: mandates and contracts.
To try to minimize the school budget, the school has proposed cutting money to cover contingencies, such as unexpected out-of-district Special Education placements, an English Language Learner teacher, or home tutoring for ill children. FinCom member David Model pointed out, "By stripping out these contingencies, the risk is transferred from the school to the town."
Currently there is a request for $75,000 to cover unanticipated costs related to Special Education tuition and Student Services as well as an increase in the operation cost of the Waste Water Treatment Facility. There is the potential to request an additional $75,000 related to these issues.
Model said, "Overrides need to be clear. Do you want a top level school or not?" Doyle replied, "We are losing ten staff positions [at the levy limit budget]." She pointed out that to maintain the present level of excellence at the school would require a 6.9% increase, and that is a far cry from the levy limit of a 3% increase.
To reach the levy limit budget, cuts would include six teachers, four classroom aides, all curriculum coordinators except two, a permanent substitute and six athletic coaching positions. Special maintenance projects would be eliminated and texts and supplies would be reduced. The school is looking for a $241,000 override to restore two of the six teaching positions which may be special education teachers, to add two aides to support the larger classes in the middle school, to restore the curriculum coordinators and to add back four classroom aides.
© 2007 The