Friday, May 4, 2007
Town Meeting approves override - final decision will be made at Town Election on May 8
With scant discussion of the 17 Warrant Articles, citizens approved a $21 million dollar town operating budget (Article 4), a $245,682 budget override (Article 6), and all other spending requests except the $22,000 proposal to restore the Veteran's Honor Roll (Motion 5 under Article 17), when Carlisle's Annual Town Meeting was held on Tuesday, April 30, in the Carlisle School's Corey Building.
According to Finance Committee Chair Thornton Ash, due to decreases in state aid, local receipts and new building growth, and an increase in Carlisle's share of the high school costs, taxes would have increased 5.3% under the balanced budget proposed in Article 4. If the override and capital exclusions approved at Town Meeting are also passed at the ballot on May 8, real estate taxes will rise approximately 7.6% in FY08.
Motion 6 under Article 17 to spend $2,000 in Community Preservation funding was not moved (see "Town approves $361,715 in CPA-funded projects," at left.)
According to Town Clerk Charlene Hinton, 445 registered voters attended, seated in both the auditorium and cafeteria. Ralph Anderson served as Assistant Moderator for the 30 voters in the cafeteria, which was also where families who had brought children were encouraged to sit (see photo at right.)
USA PATRIOT Act report
Under a requirement set by Town Meeting in 2004, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie gave her annual report, "There has been no activity under the PATRIOT Act during the previous year."
Article 1 presentations - Long-term finances
After acceptance of the Town Report under Article 1, the evening was launched with a presentation by Tim Hult of the Special Committee for Long Term Financial Planning. This committee has developed a model to analyze future taxes as a percentage of income under various scenarios. If operating costs continue to rise at the same rate, the current 5.9% of household income devoted to local taxes (called the "tax incidence") would become 6.7% by 2012 and 6.6% in 2017. With the Carlisle School expansion, Concord- Carlisle High School replacement, and other planned projects, taxes could rise 55% by 2012 from $10,004 to $15,555. Conclusion? Operating expenses must be controlled, projects must be prioritized and timed, and townspeople must be willing to pay more in taxes. Hult invited citizens to review the planning report at: www.carlislema.gov.
Carlisle School expansion
School Building Committee member Wendell Sykes gave a brief presentation on proposed building plans at the Carlisle Public School. The school hopes to seek design funds this fall for both renovations and a building addition project.
A new building would replace the 50-year-old Spalding Building that received the poorest rating from the state in a survey of school buildings last year, indicating it is a "candidate for replacement." Repairs on Spalding would cost around $1 million for a new roof and heating system, as well as for other needed repairs, Sykes pointed out.
It is not clear when Carlisle will receive state aid from the Massachusetts School Building Assistance Bureau (MSBA) Sykes said, nor is it yet clear exactly how much aid the town can expect for the project. The school submitted a Statement of Interest application to the MSBA and is waiting to see if it makes the list of projects approved by the state this year. In the meantime, Sykes said the school plans to hold forums with the Council on Aging, the Carlisle Education Foundation, the Carlisle School Association and others in the community about the project.
Passed unanimously, Article 2 will allow a Stabilization Fund transfer of $145,000 to the Reserve Fund to cover FY07 potential overruns. These include: $75,000 for the Carlisle School due to shortfalls in wastewater treatment operation and special education, $140,000 for legal fees due to Coventry Woods, and $20,000 for fire and communications. It also releases overlay reserved for tax abatements pre-2006 to be applied to 2006 and 2007.
Unanimously approved, Article 3 set the FY08 salaries of the Town Moderator at $50, members of the Board of Assessors at $100 each, and the Town Clerk at $49,812, a 3.5% increase over FY07.
Article 4 - Balanced budget
Unanimously approved, Article 4 set the town budget of $21,401,505 for FY08 which is at the levy limit as defined by Proposition 2-1/2, a state law which limits property tax increases to 2.5% without an override. Ash explained that Free Cash transfers totaling $422,000 are included to increase funding for CCHS, to raise town departments to a 2.9% increase, and to make up a shortfall in new real estate growth of $15,000. With all transfers approved (including Articles 2, 8, and 12) the Free Cash balance which was $1,297,200 at the beginning of FY07 will end at $590,600.
Passed unanimously to apply $14,948 of funds received from an agricultural grant now held in the Stabilization Fund toward the debt service on the purchase of the Robbins-Hutchins Fields (formerly called the Wang-Coombs Land). This is a routine yearly transaction.
Article 6 — Override
Prior to moving the override Article, the Moderator recognized James Elgin of East Riding Drive who made a motion for a paper ballot on Article 6. The motion failed on a hand vote.
Article 6 asked Town Meeting to approve $245,682 for additional funding for the Carlisle School and town departments, over the amounts in the levy limit budget under Article 4. Selectman Tim Hult and Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle reviewed the requested expenditures, $95,682 to support town departments and $150,000 for the Carlisle Public School. There was no discussion and the motion carried with a large majority.
To be approved by the town, the override must also pass at the Town Election next Tuesday.
Article 7 - Capital Equipment
Passed by unanimous voice vote, $229,687 within the levy limit for captial equipment and improvements were authorized for town departments and the Carlisle School. Included in the request were: $56,000 for replacement of school computers and network equipment; $16,500 for the Fire Department to replace protective clothing and repair Engine 5; $4,500 to replace worn UPS batteries for the Communication Department; $61,687 to the Police Department to paint the station, replace five windows and repave the driveway; $63,000 for carpeting, painting and a technology upgrade for Town Hall; and $28,000 for a new plow for a sand truck.
Article 8 - Capital Equipment
No questions were asked before voters passed Article 8, authorizing a transfer from Free Cash of $139,500 to purchase a new communications console and a Town Hall software package to handle payroll.
Article 9 - DPW dump truck
Passed by voice vote with little or no dissent, a request for $52,000 was approved to purchase a new dump truck for the Department of Public Works. To go into effect, this capital exclusion must also be approved under Question 2 at Town Election.
Article 10 - Carlisle School projects
The Carlisle School's request for $100,000 in capital projects funding passed easily with minimum discussion. Selectman Bill Tice read the motion which requested $75,000 to replace the ten-year-old telephone system, and $25,000 to replace classroom locks. Carlisle School Committee member Christy Barbee, presenting the motion, explained the telephone system is obsolete and used by only one other school system in the state. She joked that if that other school system replaces their system they should inform Carlisle so we can "scavenge parts." Barbee, explaining the need for new door locks, said presently the classroom doors have to be locked from the outside, and referred to the tragedy at Virginia Tech, where "a lot of those teachers were barricading themselves because they could not lock those doors." The Selectmen and the Long Term Capital Committee both recommended the funding. Susan Stamps of Cross Street asked, "I was wondering if there are Homeland Security grants for school locks and telephones." Barbee responded the school will apply for grants, but "we probably won't get them."
Article 11 — CCHS Improvements
Article 11 requested that the town approve borrowing $1,245,000 to finance facility improvements for Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS). Carlisle will share the cost of the capital projects according to the assessment ratio, which is based on the ratio of Carlisle to Concord students at the high school, currently about 30%.
Michael Fitzgerald of the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) explained that CCHS buildings may need to be replaced or significantly rebuilt in the next five years, but some improvements cannot wait. This includes replacement of the old modular transportation building, new fume hoods and improved ventilation in the science labs, lighting improvements, human resources and financial software, modular buildings to house offices, as well as two classrooms and cafeteria renovations.
Bret Bero of Hartwell Road opposed the Article "for two symbolic reasons. First, putting money into a building that needs replacing now may jeopardize a future vote to tear down and replace CCHS. Second, I believe CCHS [replacement] should take precedence over the [replacement of] Concord elementary schools.Since we are the minority partner, the only way to get their attention regarding priorities is to reject this motion."
Fitzgerald responded that the decision to replace or renovate the high school is driven by the reimbursement from the state, and currently there is a moratorium for funding new school projects. In addition, about half of the renovations under Article 11 would be transportable to a new building, and almost all would be transportable to a renovated facility."
The measure passed easily on a hand vote. The debt exclusion under Article 11 must also be approved at the Town Election on May 8.
Article 12 - Free Cash Transfer
Passed unanimously to approve a Free Cash transfer of $422,088 into the levy-limit budget for the following:
· $200,000 to the operating budget to increase levy limit funding for FY08.
· $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.
· $15,000 to the operating budget to compensate for a reduction in anticipated new real estate growth.
Article 13 - Revolving Funds
Passed unanimously, this yearly Article approved the continued existence of revolving funds for several town committees that charge fees for services. It was noted that the only change from last year was an increase in the Building Inspector Fund spending limit from $70,000 to $75,000.
Article 14 - Roads
Voters approved this Article with a two-thirds majority, authorizing the town to spend $200,257 for road improvements, with the anticipation of state reimbursement under provisions of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90. Roads scheduled for repair include: half of River Road and Rutland Street, and portions of North and Skelton Roads and Lowell and Stearns Streets.
Article 15 - Senior tax exemption
A majority passed this yearly article, allowing the town to accept a state law permitting a real estate tax exemption. Qualifying seniors will be granted an exemption of increases in taxes up to a limit of $2,000, or 100% more than the baseline exemption of $1,000. The state will reimburse a portion of the exempted taxes.
Article 16 — Lease of Land for Wireless Facilities
Passage of this article authorized the Selectmen to lease or allow the use of of nine specific town-owned properties as well as the town right-of-way along roadways for a period of twenty years. Any use of the Carlisle Public School property will require approval of the School Committee. The stated purpose of the article is to solicit proposals to install and operate CAM (concealed antenna monopole) or DAS (distributed antenna system) wireless systems and facilities. The presentation was made by Brian Larson, member of the Planning Board and Wireless Advisory Committee.
Larson suggested that a hybrid system (CAM, DAS and Micro-Cell) might provide the best solution for Carlisle. He stated that the Selectmen would solicit proposals with the decision criteria being: systems that provide the best town-wide solution with configurations that optimize "stealth" and low impact and not necessarily one that affords the most revenue to the town. Each such installation would require a special permit and site plan approval from the Planning Board.
In spite of a pre-meeting announcement to turn cell phone ringers off, one in the back of the auditorium started just as Larson's reached the point in his presentation on "present inadequate coverage in Carlisle." Moderator Raftery quipped, "What inadequate coverage?"
Deborah Darago of Heald Road spoke against the proposal, "I'm really opposed to having cell towers over the school. Children have to be in school 30 hours a week. Why put this over their heads?"
The motion passed by the required two-thirds vote.
See "Town approves $361,715 in CPA-funded projects," on page 1.
[Ed note: Reporters who contributed to this article include: Betsy Fell (Articles 7-9, 14 and 15), Maya Liteplo (Articles 6 and 11), Cynthia Sorn (Article 10), Cecile Sandwen (Articles 1-5, 12 and 13) Bob Zielinski (Article 16.)]
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