Friday, November 16, 2007
FinCom, BOS reflect on FY09 budget challenges
The Carlisle Finance Committee (FinCom) presented their current budget development status to the board at the November 13 Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting.
BOS Chair Tim Hult prefaced the discussion by stating: "[In the past] 20 years, this is one of the more difficult ones. We go through a year-long process to review needs and then match them through revenues and taxation." He added, "We model that out early on, and the model concerns us."
Both FinCom and the BOS agreed that they will strive ultimately for fairness in the way the new budgets are developed. Hult stressed that he "worries about fairness a lot. [We] need to maintain a reasonable fairness in terms of how people are treated." He observed,"What we have here isn't cheap: top-flight schools and incredible open space. It's not easy to maintain."
Carlisle has a yearly fiscal budget of roughly $20 million. In terms of budget revenues, Hult stated that state aid, real estate tax base and local receipts (e.g. motor vehicle excise tax) are flat. FinCom member Thorton Ash stated that they have published a memo to departments and schools asking them to pull together tentative budgets with a zero increase. "We think the revenues equal level spending." Because of the difficult situation, he said, "The budget reviews are starting early next year. [We have] a lot of detail to go through, but we have put together a good process."
Regarding the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School budget, he said, "We're seeing a $280,000 mismatch between zero growth and the Concord recommendation." Special education costs are a factor. Another reason costs are increasing, he noted, is because the number of Carlisle students at the high school relative to the number from Concord is rising and each town is assessed in proportion to its share of the student population.
FinCom liaison to the high school, David Verrill, spoke about short-term increases in the CCHS budget from 2009 to 2011: "We have a rabbit moving through a python in the region that is going to hit us in 2012."
Selectman Doug Stevenson stated that "we need to be looking very carefully at the schools, to recognize the effects on all school employees, and how it will effect budgets down the road." BOS member John Williams supported the notion of closely examining the school system and added that he wants to better understand special education — what is it, what types of programs are being provided, and what is and is not mandated by the state. Verrill responded by saying, "On one hand, it would be nice to know why there was an increase of 11 students into the program in the span of a few months earlier this year." Verrill also added that there was a significant increase in the number of students with Asperger's syndrome, one of several autism spectrum disorders.
How much taxation will voters support? State Proposition 2-1/2 requires an override vote for an increase in the local tax levy that exceeds 2-1/2% and Hult presented a chart that described Carlisle's historical voting behavior with respect to overrides. Small overrides typically have been more successful than larger ones, and he noted, "We've been very nervous of overrides that exceed $250,000 in the past."
© 2007 The