Friday, March 7, 2008
Town defers many big-ticket items
Carlisle’s investment in capital improvements will have an off-year in FY09, thanks to a tight budget situation. At Finance Committee (FinCom) and Selectmen (BOS) meetings February 24 and 25, Chair Don Rober presented the recommendations of the Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee (LTCRC) with the observation that the budget of $229,500 followed the FinCom levy limit budget guideline and no other warrant items for capital investment will be put forward at Town Meeting May 5. The committee had been meeting every other week since October to review requests from each of the town departments. Rober had also asked departments to project capital needs for coming years. This uncovered substantial requirements on the horizon, including at least $4 million which may be requested in FY10.
The FinCom guideline had provided no increase over FY08, due to a fall-off in projected FY09 tax receipts as a result of the real estate slowdown. Both evenings Rober thanked town department employees who minimized requests in order to help make ends meet in a tough year, and noted that the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) is making no capital request for the high school.
Schools keep to bare bones
A total of $143,000 was recommended for the Carlisle Public School (CPS). This would include:
The largest item represents replacement of one-fifth of the 300-plus computer systems the school provides for students, consistent with a recommended five-year replacement cycle. However, it was noted the speed of innovation is making it more difficult to continue support for older systems, and laptops are not surviving five years, so a faster rate of replacement may be needed in future. Also, the FinCom has proposed putting the $80,000 for computers into the operating budget instead of computers is being considered. If no other source of funds were found, this year’s computer purchases would be pushed off to FY10 and current school computers would have to last six years.
The deferred maintenance includes exterior and interior painting and repairs to the plaza not completed last year due to budget concerns. Also included are emergency repairs: water seeping into the Corey brick façade cannot be ignored, the gym bleachers pose a safety hazard, and roof repairs will tide Spalding over until the building can be replaced as part of the school project under discussion with the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA).
Requests for CPS that did not make the cut include security items totaling about $90,000, a wireless upgrade for $100,000, replacement of dishwashers for $30,000, and an additional $83,000 for technology, including computers and whiteboards.
The Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) will not receive any capital funds, although over $1 million in requirements, of which Carlisle’s share would have been $350,000, had been identified. These included lighting and ventilation, apportioned to Carlisle at $52,000, wall and partition replacements at $110,000, an electric power upgrade at $67,500, auditorium curtains at $13,500, and a roof for the gym at $115,500.
Public safety supported
The only other items approved by the LTCRC fell generally into the area of community safety:
Many of these are routine items. Police cruisers are replaced every three years, and pagers and clothing are on a rotating schedule. The fire department’s portable water tank is a new requirement because nearby towns providing assistance no longer have tankers. In a later conversation, Rober noted that Billerica recently retired a tanker and chose not to replace it because they have water available throughout that town. That is not the case in Carlisle. The portable tank would allow the department to leave water on site while a tanker returns to the station for a refill.
The police digital radio is needed for communication with other departments within the North East Municipal Law Enforcement (NEMLC) consortium. Radar speed enforcement is required by the state. In addition to these items, $5,000 was set aside for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at Town Hall.
Unfilled requests start to pile up
Unfilled were two DPW requests. The first was for $110,000 for a dump truck to replace one almost 30 years old, and the other was for $75,000 for a side mower. The job of mowing roadsides is now contracted out and the DPW receives complaints about visibility around corners.
Other unfunded items include a fire station replacement generator and parking lot repaving, both $50,000, and a rescue boat at $35,000. Communications will do without a $50,000 cable which would have connected the department to the transmitter at the school, providing more services and eventual cost savings over the current course of renting from Verizon. The police will hope their old boiler holds out for now – it would have cost $13,000. The library withdrew their request for funds to evaluate the brick facade of their building and have approached the Community Preservation Committee to request $40,000 in CPA funding for the facade evaluation.
A $4 million problem
FinCom member Jerry Lerman noted, “It seems next year is looking pretty grim.” Already, over $4 million in capital requests for FY10 has been identified, with another $2.6 million to follow in FY11. This does not include the over $1 million in items not approved this year. Selectman Tim Hult noted, “We have a major problem here.”
FY10 requests include a roof for the CPS Corey building at $840,000 and Corey heating units for $325,000. A $450,000 generator has also been proposed so the Corey building can be used as an emergency shelter. Wilkins and Robbins roofs would follow in FY11 at about $1.2 million. At CCHS, $544,500 is likely to be requested in FY10 as Carlisle’s share of replacing the main roof, as well as $270,000 for heating units and air handlers. In FY11, Carlisle’s share of a replacement plan for the CCHS water system is expected to be $800,000.
Other big-ticket items for FY10 include fire cisterns at $200,000 and a replacement for the 22-year-old Fire Engine 6 at $475,000. Twelve cisterns are envisioned. Three years ago a plan was put forward to build two cisterns per year at a cost of about $100,000 each. So far, only two have been funded in the three years. One cistern at Hemlock Hill is in process and another in the Town Center will go in later this year. Also not included in FY10 or FY11 is a replacement for the DPW building, which was recently determined to be not feasible to repair.
Reached after the meeting by phone, Rober noted the LTCRC will be meeting this week to discuss a plan for managing the upcoming requirements. The committee hopes the Carlisle School will be able to include the Corey, Wilkins, and Robbins roofing in the upcoming school building project, which will likely be eligible for partial state reimbursement. A more uncertain situation exists at CCHS, where the statement of interest in building a new school has been put on hold by MSBA. As a result, the Regional School Committee must put forward plans to maintain the aging CCHS facilities in the event a new school is not on the near horizon. “They don’t really want more money (from LTCRC),” said Rober. “They want to build a building.” Talks are continuing with MSBA.
The BOS will vote on the LTCRC proposed budget for FY09 on Tuesday March 11. ∆
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