Friday, April 27, 2007
Town Meeting Warrant Articles examined
Several Articles handle the town's yearly "housekeeping" details and are summarized in the "Summary of Warrant Articles" table. These include Articles 1, 3, 13 and 14. Article 2 is also discussed in "Revenue and expense issues raise concern,".
Article 2 — Free Cash Transfer to Fund FY07 Budget Overages
A transfer of funds from Free Cash is requested under this article to handle unexpected expenses incurred by the school and town departments during FY07. The Carlisle School has requested a $75,000 transfer from the town's Free Cash for unanticipated special education, out-of-district tuition expenses. Although the state reimburses Carlisle for 75% of the cost of out-of-district tuitions (called "Circuit Breaker reimbursements"), the school must cover the rest of the cost in the budget. At the recent budget presentation, School Superintendent Doyle explained the out-of-district placements were not known until after the FY07 budget was passed last spring. The current year's budget did not include adequate funds for the tuitions and the difference needs to be covered by a transfer from Free Cash.
Funding is also included for unexpected legal fees due to Coventry Woods, and additional funds for fire and communications.
Article 4 — Basic Levy-Limit Budget
Often this annual Article is one of the least controversial and has scant discussion on the floor of Town Meeting, even though it represents the lion's share of town expenditures at $21,140,875.
Article 6 — Override
Article 6 asks Town Meeting to approve $245,682 for additional funding for the Carlisle School and town departments, over the amounts in the levy limit budget, Article 4. A town can assess taxes in excess of the amount permitted under Proposition 2-1/2 (annual 2.5% increase plus new growth) by passing an override. An override permanently increases the levy limit.
The largest single item in this one-tier override is $150,000 for the Carlisle Public School, primarily for existing teaching positions. Superintendent Marie Doyle said that even if the override passes, five teachers will be cut in FY08. [See "A look at the Carlisle School budget," page 5.]
The remaining $95,682 under Article 6 include:
• Town Hall computer maintenance
and actuarial support $31,439
• Restore police training
and improve coverage for the Communications Department $34,600
• Primarily for wages for the
Council on Aging (COA) $22,581
• Library summer
Saturday hours $4,998
• Insurance and benefits $2,073.
The Selectmen support this Article. However, the Finance Committee had a split vote, with some members opposing the large single-tier $245,682 override. The FinCom had prioritized additional budget requests into three categories, and would have preferred a three-tier override. Article 6 includes items ranked in all three categories. For example, additional wages for the COA, police, fire, and training for police were rated priority 1 — "critical;" Carlisle School budget items and Town Hall computer maintenance and actuarial fees were rated priority 2; a number of smaller items including Saturday library hours were priority 3. The Selectmen were concerned that if the override were tiered, the most expensive tier might not pass and the school budget would suffer.
To be approved, the override must pass at Town Meeting as well as at the Town Election, May 8.
According to COA Treasurer Jim Elgin, the COA may make a motion on the floor of Town Meeting for a portion of the COA request in the event that the entire override fails.
Article 7 — Capital Equipment
This authorizes a total of $229,687 for various repairs and new equipment within the levy-limit budget:
• Computers $36,000
• Network replacement $20,000
• Protective Clothing $6,500
• Engine 5 repairs $10,000
• UPS batteries $4,500
• Cruiser $29,500
• Paint Station $15,000
• Repave Driveway $12,187
•Replace 5 windows $5,000
• Technology upgrade $25,000
•Paint Town Hall $23,000
• Replace sand truck plow $28,000
Article 11 — CCHS Improvements
Article 11 requests that the town approve borrowing $1,245,000 to finance facility improvements for Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS). Carlisle's assessment, approximately $350,000, is based on the ratio of Carlisle students to Concord students at the high school, currently about 28%. Although CCHS buildings may need to be replaced or significantly rebuilt in the next five years, the Regional School Committee believes that some improvements cannot wait. The items include:
• $120,000 for a new transportation building to replace the current facility, a trailer located behind the school. The total cost is $300,000, but because it would be used by both the high school and the Concord School District, the cost for the Regional School District would be $120,000.
•$150,000 for modular buildings to house offices as well as two classrooms.
•$175,000 for human resource and financial software to be used for preparing reports to the State Department of Education and the Department of Revenue.
•$75,000 for new lab fume hoods and to improve ventilation in the science rooms.
In addition, the school plans to upgrade the cafeteria, including a new floor, new tables and new chairs. Insulation such as window glazing may be added to make the large, heavily-used room more energy efficient.
Proposition 2-1/2 also allows towns to exceed the levy limit for payment of certain capital projects and debt service costs. An exclusion for debt service costs is referred to as a debt exclusion. Unlike overrides, exclusions do not become part of the base upon which the levy limit is calculated for future years.
The debt exclusion under Article 11 must pass at Town Meeting as well as at the Town Election on May 8.
Article 12 — Transfer of Free Cash
A "yes" vote would approve $422,088 in transfers from Free Cash for the following FY08 accounts:
• $151,000 to CCHS to ameliorate the impact of an unfavorable student ratio this year.
• $56,088 to CCHS to meet the Concord level of funding as required by the regional agreement.
• $200,000 to the operating budget to increase levy limit funding for FY08.
• $15,000 to the operating budget to compensate for a reduction in anticipated new real estate growth.
If this article and Article 8 both pass at Town Meeting, the remaining Free Cash balance will be $590,600.
Article 15 — Real Estate Tax Exemption
Acceptance of this Article permits the Board of Assessors to grant a personal exemption from a portion of real estate taxes as allowed under Massachusetts law. In Carlisle, persons 60 years of age and over, who meet the income and asset requirements, are eligible for up to $2,000 off of their property tax bill. Individuals with disability, veterans with service-connected disability, a surviving spouse, or a minor child of a deceased parent may also be eligible for a personal exemption. Applications and information on qualifying criteria are available at the Assessor's office in Town Hall.
Article 16 — Lease of Land for Wireless Facilities
Passage of this Article would authorize the Selectmen to lease or otherwise dispose of all or portions of ten specific town-owned properties as well as the town right-of-way along roadways. The stated purpose is to solicit proposals to install and operate CAM or DAS wireless systems and facilities. A CAM is a concealed antenna monopole — typically 60 or more feet high. A DAS (distributed antenna system) consists of a small whip antenna and an equipment canister attached to an existing or new utility pole. A fiber optic cable would connect the DAS systems, spaced up to half a mile apart, and would link all the antennas to a "carrier hotel," a 20-foot by 40-foot building needed to house additional equipment.
The ad-hoc Wireless Advisory Committee has suggested that a hybrid system, including both CAM and DAS might provide the best solution for Carlisle (see "New cell tower strategy unveiled," Mosquito, March 9).
Each such installation would require a special permit and site plan approval by the Planning Board.
Article 17 — Community Preservation Act (CPA) Fund
The Community Preservation Committee will recommend six projects to Town Meeting (see "Town Meeting to vote on $385,715 in CPA fund projects," Mosquito, April 6). Town Meeting may accept or reject recommended projects or reduce the proposed funding for a project, but it cannot increase the funding or substitute any other projects. The money from rejected projects remains in the ongoing CPA Fund.
Section 5(b)(2) of the Community Preservation Act directs the committee to recommend projects in the following categories: acquisition of open space or land for recreational use, preservation and restoration of historic resources, or the creation and preservation of community housing. The fund may also be used for support and rehabilitation of housing acquired or created under the CPA.
The law does not allow the fund to be used for maintenance of existing facilities or for paying for costs already appropriated from another source.
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