Friday, July 20, 2007
Finance Committee plugs holes in FY07 budget
On July 11 the Finance Committee (FinCom) met to approve transfers totaling $178,104.68 from the FY07 Reserve Fund. These transfers cover budget deficits as a result of affordable housing legal costs, special education and other shortfalls in the running of town government during the fiscal year just ended. In the FY07 budget, $236,000 was set aside in the Reserve Fund for unexpected deficits and the $58,000 not used will end up in Free Cash.
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie explained that the largest transfer of $119,734.30 will go to the General Expense account. Although there were some overages, legal expenses showed a shortage of $140,214.28 as a result of the Coventry Woods 40B which came before the Zoning Board of Appeals this year. Asked to predict if legal expenses will be an ongoing problem, McKenzie noted a number of cases are now being resolved that have been pursued for years, and this should take pressure off this line item. In addition, "Coventry Woods should settle down" at least until hearings on the three lawsuits being pursued by the developer and abutters occur, probably no earlier than FY10. "Of course I don't know what's on the horizon," she added.
Carlisle School deficit
The second largest transfer was $37,307.25 for the Carlisle Public Schools. Financial Manager Heidi Zimmerman explained that she had put in a request for $75,000 to cover special education and other costs that had arisen after the FY08 budget was passed at Town Meeting. However, Town Financial Director Larry Barton explained that the Reserve Fund is designated for unforeseen costs in the same year and cannot be applied in anticipation of a deficit. Only the $37,307.25 could be applied, so the school will find other avenues to finance the rest.
The Communications Department continues to have issues with turnover, and this led to a $15,575.59 shortage to pay police officers to cover dispatch. McKenzie noted the department "tried very hard, including holding back vacations" but coverage continues to be a problem due to the four-month lead time to train a new employee.
Other transfers included $4,925 to the library for air-conditioning repairs, $406 in additional state assessments over estimate, and $156.54 for Memorial Day flags.
Looking ahead, Thornton Ash of the FinCom noted the Selectmen are preparing a letter to town departments communicating that "FY09 will be a very, very tight year and they should take the guideline very, very seriously." Once benefits are provided for, new real estate growth is expected to accommodate only $250,000 in additional spending without a transfer from Free Cash or an override. Ash noted the Carlisle Schools have already identified $350,000 in needed funds and the Concord-Carlisle High School has doubled the number of special education placements in the coming year. The FinCom is working with Concord to try to come to a joint agreement on funding for the high school.
FinCom needs volunteers
The FinCom is looking for two members and will begin reviewing candidates at its next meeting.
© 2007 The