Friday, April 20, 2007
FinCom invites public comment on FY08 budget
High taxes, rising salaries, capital needs — Carlisle faces many financial challenges in upcoming years. On Monday, April 23, the Finance Committee (FinCom) will hold a public hearing to review the FY08 budget and look ahead to the future. The hearing, which takes place at Town Hall starting at 7:30 p.m., will provide an opportunity for interested townspeople to learn more and ask questions before deciding how to vote at Town Meeting on April 30. "The financial picture deserves citizens' close attention," says Chair Thornton Ash.
Tax bills up
Tax bills are projected to rise in FY08, regardless of what happens at Town Meeting. This is a particularly difficult year as state reimbursements for a past Carlisle School building project will be necessary to fill the gap, even if no override or capital exclusions are approved. At the levy limit, the average tax bill will rise from $10,005 to $10,539 in FY08.
An override of $245,682 is being proposed which contains additional funds for a number of town needs, including police training, dispatch coverage, COA hours, and $150,000 for the Carlisle Schools to avoid further reductions in teaching positions. If passed, the override would add another $140 to the average bill, and capital exclusions for a DPW dump truck and Carlisle School security would add $30 and $57 respectively. However, even if the override and both capital exclusions pass, the tax rate of $12.82 per $1,000 assessed value would be lower than the FY06 rate of $12.99 (the FY07 rate fell to $11.96 after a property reassessment).
To avoid a large override and secure critical services, the FinCom is departing from tradition and recommending Free Cash transfers to fund operations. Free Cash consists of funds that have accumulated from past years' overages and is usually reserved for non-recurring expenses.
Revenue not meeting expenses
"Revenue is not growing sufficiently to cover all needs as presently projected," says Ash. "New building permits are way off and state aid is not keeping pace" with expenses. The percentage of Carlisle students at the high school has gone up, special education continues to rise and the costs of benefits have seen double-digit increases. Debt service for past Town Meeting commitments to cisterns and CCHS improvements must soon be provided for, and in future, a new debt exclusion for CCHS, if it passes at the upcoming Town Meeting and Elections, will need to be funded. In addition, "Generous salary contracts at the schools continue to be a major challenge," says Ash.
Particularly in the face of long term plans to fund new schools, housing and a community center, "the town needs to begin a priority discussion," says Ash. "How do we fund essential services?" The Finance Committee hopes to begin that discussion Monday.
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