Friday, March 16, 2007
FinCom struggles with override
In a straw vote on March 12, a majority of the Finance Committe (FinCom) members could not support the large size of the $245,682 levy limit override set by the Board of Selectmen the previous week on March 6. Several FinCom members preferred that a tiered version of the override be placed before voters at Town Meeting on April 30.
A noticeably long silence greeted the announcement of their preliminary vote the next morning at the town's Financial Planning Team (FinTeam) meeting.
Representatives from the Selectmen and the FinCom attend the FinTeam meetings as well as other officials involved with the town's financial affairs. Selectmen present, Doug Stevenson and Tim Hult, thought it unlikely their board would change the override at their meeting that night, unless school officials requested a tiered approach. Carlisle School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman said she would discuss the issue with School Superintendent Marie Doyle. Ultimately, both the school and the Selectmen opted not to alter the override (see article.)
The FinCom plans to take a formal vote on whether to support the override at their next meeting on Monday, March 19.
FinCom prefers smaller
or tiered override
During the FinCom meeting, member David Model said this year's budget planning was "like a 'Perfect Storm'" with so many unexpected costs, listing the high energy costs, a higher ratio of Carlisle students at the high school and unplanned special education expenses.
The proposed override includes $150,000 for the Carlisle Public School and $95,682 for town departments, including: approximately $35,000 for wages for communications, the Fire Department and the Council on Aging (COA), $12,500 to restore training for the Police, $4,200 for materials and expanded hours at Gleason Public Library, and other miscellaneous needs. The tax levy can grow above the limits imposed by state law Proposition 2-1/2 only if voters approve an override. The amount of the override permanently increases the size of the allowable tax levy in future years.
The members of FinCom are concerned that the override will fail because it is set too high. They are also concerned that if the override is tiered, the highest tier may not pass and the school budget would suffer. Committee members struggled with the concept of which was better: the school getting no money if the override fails, or the school getting some, but not the full $150,000 if a tiered approach is taken and some portion fails.
FinCom had earlier recommended a three-tier override to the Selectmen, who had chosen instead a single override. At the end of Monday's meeting, the FinCom decided to approach the Selectmen on Tuesday, March 13, the last day the warrant was open, to discuss again either breaking up the override into two or three tiers or lowering the amount of the single override from $245,000 to somewhere around $180,000. Many FinCom members felt they could support an override of the lesser amount.
If the override were lowered to roughly $180,000, it would be a significant blow to the Carlisle School budget. The School Committee had originally wanted $360,000 in funding over their levy limit budget to provide level services. That was lowered to a $241,000 request, which was later reduced further to the $150,000 included in the Selectmen's single $245,682 levy override. The smaller override of $180,000 was to include only $100,000 for the Carlisle School.
Model said, "We need to convey a feeling," noting that the town cannot sustain large overrides every year. "We cannot keep doing this."
The committee wants the town to think about the tough budget choices before Town Meeting. FinCom Chair Thornton Ash wanted townspeople, perhaps led by the Selectmen, to come up with a prioritized plan to follow as budgets tighten. Town Meeting is an awkward place to do this, he pointed out.
© 2007 The