The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 9, 2007


Changing town demographics will impact schools and taxes

John Ballantine, a member of Long Term Capital Planning Committee and a former Carlisle Selectmen and member of the Finance Committee, gave a presentation to the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) on February 27 on the subject of changing demographics. He defined Carlisle as "a wealthy, aging community with significant capital needs." His data showed a slowly declining school population in the K-8 school and a growing number of Carlisle students at the high school over the next five years. He also talked about taxes and income growth over the last 25 years and how taxes have become an increasing burden on the 30% of Carlisle households with incomes of less than $100,000.

Aging population

Ballantine showed several interesting population figures. In 1980, Carlisle had 924 people in the 25 to 40 age bracket. By 1990 that number grew to 1,621, but by 2005, it had dropped to only 476. In 1990, there were 800 women in their prime child bearing years, ages 25 to 40; today there are fewer than 250. That significant a drop means fewer children will be entering the lower grades in the next five years, unless a large number of families with young children move into town.

At the same time, the population of those over 50 was 719 in 1980, rose to 1,178 in 1990 and climbed further to 1,941 in 2005. This too is a significant shift. Ballantine wonders about the willingness of this group to support overrides for refurbishing schools, new athletic fields and town services.

Carlisle population statistics mimic those of the state. Ballantine pointed out, "Young people aren't staying in Massachusetts. The whole state is losing population. As the age group over fifty grows, it is harder to get support for schools."

Ballantine cited trends he has observed over roughly ten years. Older people were not selling their homes as rapidly as expected. There are fewer children in new homes than expected. Looking at averages, there are 0.5 children in the houses that have been sold and 1.5 children in the houses have been bought. For a new house, expect one child in the house and possibly one more will be born later. But the number of new houses built in Carlisle is declining. In 2000, 23 new homes were built, in 2005 only 10 were built.

More Carlisle students at CCHS

Looking at the enrollment projections for the high school based on the present populations in the Concord and Carlisle Middle Schools, the ratio of Carlisle students to those from Concord is increasing. In 1990, Carlisle made up 24% of the high school population. It grew to almost 28% in 2000. It is expected to be over 30% for 2009 through 2012. This will cause an appreciable increase in Carlisle's portion of the high school's operating costs.

Fewer students K-8

Ballantine estimates the K-8 population will drop by 40 to 60 children over the next decade. Carlisle is seeing significantly smaller kindergarten class sizes presently compared with five years ago. Ballantine noted how a particular class grows between kindergarten and eighth grade. For example, if a kindergarten class starts with 70 kids, over the next eight years that class grows to 90 to 100 students. We used to see kindergarten classes of 80 to 90 students growing to 110 students.

"Carlisle's issue is that it is not a growing population," stated Ballantine. The challenge for Carlisle is having a declining school population but the need for capital spending. In the last 20 years, both Concord and Carlisle have had their average family size drop from four to three.

Impact of 40B

Ballantine expects to see sixty 40B-units in Carlisle in the next few years. If this housing is built, it will cause a one-time population increase. Ballantine projects only "a 50% yield on each unit," meaning that on average, every other unit would have one child in it.

Property taxes

Another major part of the presentation centered around taxes. Ballantine discussed how income and taxes have increased over the last 25 years. Average property taxes in Carlisle have risen dramatically, from $2,360 in 1980 to $8,770 in 2005 (see table). However, the median income of Carlisle households has also risen, from $38,250 in 1980 to $160,000 in 2005. In 1980, the tax on the median house was 6.2% of the median income; in 2005 the tax was 5.5%. Therefore, over the last 25 years incomes and property taxes have remained roughly proportional.

Ballantine believes the median property tax bill will rise to between $10,800 and $12,600 by 2010.

Tax burden is unequal

Ballantine pointed out that taxes are not necessarily proportional across all households. Using 2005 figures, 30% of Carlisle families have incomes under $95,000; 30% of families have incomes between $95,000 and $185,000, and 40% of families have incomes over $185,000. Families with lower incomes pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for property taxes.

For example: Using a mid-point of $75,000 for the average income of those those in the less-than-$95,000 bracket, and a tax rate of 7%, those households will be spending 16.8% of their income on property taxes. Those with incomes between $95,000 and $185,000, with a mid-point of $140,000, will be spending 9.0% of their incomes on property taxes. Those with incomes over $185,000, using a mid-point of $250,000, will spend 5.0% of their incomes on property taxes.

Outlook for the future

Looking at Carlisle's capital needs, Ballantine said, "We are wrestling with two school projects. Do you phase them? The Selectmen and FinCom are just starting to talk about it We are looking at a 50% increase in taxes to pay for capital needs There are a lot of needs out there; we don't know people's appetite to support it When less than 30% of households have kids, overrides are harder to pass."

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito