Friday, February 16, 2007
BOS sees over-budget requests of $400,000
On February 13, Finance Committee (FinCom) Chair Thornton Ash told the Board of Selectmen (BOS) that there are currently "requests in excess of $400,000 above levy" as the FinCom comes close to completing its reviews for FY08. Of the total, $240,000 is from the Carlisle Public School (CPS), $56,000 from the high school (CCHS) and about $100,000 from various town departments. The two boards discussed whether CCHS should be brought within the budget by a Free Cash transfer to avoid a disconnect with Concord, and whether there needs to be further examination of the request from CPS.
Each town department was issued a guideline budget increase of 2.9% in the fall, reflecting what the town could afford without an override of the Proposition 2-1/2 limits in tax increases. To cover the added expenses requested, an override or fund transfer would likely be required. There are still some unknowns; the state has not issued its budget (the version is due this month) so state aid is estimated, and insurance costs, estimated at a 15% increase may be less.
Regarding state aid, Ash said, "I'm not seeing anything in the press that leads me to think it'll be a banner year. I'm not counting on the upside." The FinCom has not reviewed Minuteman Regional School District, scheduled for February 26, but Ash noted they expect to be "slightly under guideline." A Recreation Commission request not included in the $400,000 (see "Shorts from the FinCom, Feb. 12" page 12) also will be reviewed Feb. 26.
Ash noted the FinCom has already earmarked $350,000 in Free Cash, $150,000 to cover a student ratio shift at the high school, and $200,000 to bring the budget to the current level, so "We don't have a lot more Free Cash to play with." The $100,000 total request from town departments includes dozens of small requests such as library summer Saturdays, salaries for Council on Aging employees, and increases to the police budget, which Ash said was "bare bones" and does not include staff meetings.
Bring CCHS into the fold, revisit CPS
Tim Hult offered the first BOS response, "I understand the fairness argument (that CCHS should be treated as other departments are) but if Concord is going to have the high school in their levy limit, we've got to come up with $57,000." Concord has already decided to cover the CCHS request without an override. Under the regional agreement, the two towns must agree on a budget for the high school or face the possibility of a joint town meeting to resolve the issue. "If we put it on an override and it fails, you've got a real mess," said Hult. Ash asked if there was "any concern with using Free Cash" to handle CCHS. "It takes a thorny issue away," responded Dave Model.
Discussion turned to CPS, with BOS Chair Doug Stevenson noting, "If we think $250,000 is the number, how do we get to $250,000 from $340,000?" Model suggested, "It's cleaner if they come back to us." He also noted the school's budget position has been made difficult by a $380,000 increase in salary steps and lanes.
Hult believes if the school goes ahead with a request for $3 million to begin the building project (see "BOS considers Carlisle School expansion costs" ), and requests a big override, voters may balk. He suggested, "It's worth an exercise to go back to the school and say, 'We think we would have greater success with $240,000. What would it mean?'" Model agreed, "When the poor library can't even have $5,000 for Saturday hours," the school should be asked to sacrifice a small amount in a $1.8 million budget. "The only way we can make it work is to go to the largest user of funds [CPS]."
It was agreed the FinCom will assign priorities to the other items at their February 26 meeting to present to the Selectmen on February 27. The warrant is supposed to close March 6, but will be pushed back to March 13 so the BOS has time to finalize the overrides, if any.
Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee requests
Don Rober of the Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee (LTCRC) presented recommended capital improvements for FY08 at the Selectmen's meeting on February 13. His committee is recommending over $1 million in expenses.
Within the levy limit of $225,000, fourteen items which he called "the core of maintaining the infrastructure of the town" were proposed. These included school and Town Hall computers, fire engine repairs, paving the fire and police driveways, and painting and carpeting some buildings. An additional amount of $125,000 is required for a new console to integrate new emergency communications equipment received through grants. A request from CCHS for $1,245,000 would add $415,000 as Carlisle's share. The DPW needs $80,000 to replace two trucks, a relative bargain because one is priced at $110,000, and $82,000 of that will be paid from Chapter 90 state funds.
The Carlisle School is asking for $41,000 to improve security with classroom locks and control over access. It is also requesting replacement of the aging telephone system for $75,000 because "It's not repairable." Other CPS requests may be added, including a wireless upgrade, additional computer replacements, and modular classrooms.
The BOS suggested a human resources software package for $14,500 be included in the under-levy item and that the others be grouped as a communications warrant, a CCHS warrant, a DPW warrant, and a CPS warrant, all for capital exclusions. The suggestion will go to the Finance Committee for their opinion.
© 2007 The