Friday, October 17, 2008
Selectmen keep tabs on finances
Acknowledging the nation’s tough economic situation and anticipating a possible reduction in planned state aid, the Selectmen adopted a prudent approach at the meeting on October 14. Although town finances were not on the agenda per se, the topic kept popping up. Finance Director Larry Barton appeared as part of the Town Administrator’s report to provide an update on the town treasury. Selectman Al Carpenito applauded the Fire Department for offsetting the cost of a new ambulance with an established fund. The board awarded fund monies to assist a couple of families undergoing unusual hardship to pay their bills. Chair Doug Stevenson even requested that the Selectmen review a past report on revenue enhancement for future discussion on innovative ways to raise funds.
“Safety is paramount, not return,” said Barton about town finances. He explained that since his arrival in 2003, “My focus has been on the safety and liquidity of the town as a whole.” The treasurer explained that the town keeps its financial resources – totaling $8.7 million at the end of August – primarily in cash at five primary financial institutions, including Unibank, Mellen Trust of New England, Enterprise, MMDT, and Smith-Barney. Only Mellen Trust had some exposure to the failing banks recently in the news, but Barton spoke confidently of the institution as being well capitalized overall. The treasurer meets between two to four times a year with each institution and actively monitors them.
The Massachusetts state budget currently suffers a $260 million shortfall that could approach $1 billion by the end of the year, according to Barton. He explained that the town of Carlisle was expecting $1.4 million in state aid this year. The last time a state shortfall occurred in 2003. However, any cut in state aid to communities must be voted by the legislature. “Both the schools and the town government have been advised that they should share the cuts if they happen,” said Barton (see also “Carlisle eyes economic pinch,” page 1)
Selectman Tim Hult commented that adoption of the quarterly tax bills enables the town to fund projects “as you go” and not require short-term borrowing. Barton agreed that this approach was a good one, and added, “We’re not in the position of having to go to the bond market for temporary funding for the next two to three years.
Fire Chief David Flannery requested and received authorization to expend $191,520 to replace an 11-year old ambulance in the spring. The amount covers inclusion of a 72-month extended warranty, reflects the trade-in value of the old vehicle, and covers the cost of new emergency equipment – some of which is about two decades old. The Selectmen easily passed the expenditure as it comes from an existing ambulance account with $281,000. The Fire Department replenishes this account with reimbursements from patient insurance coverage. For example, Emerson Hospital reimburses the town $250 for each Medicare patient transported.
“This is an excellent example of good planning without having to go Town Meeting,” said Carpenito. Stevenson agreed that “saving up versus borrowing” was a wise approach.
Town helps out needy
The Selectmen approved the expenditure of $10,145 from the town’s Heald Poor Fund to enable a Carlisle family undergoing “special circumstances” and hardship to pay their bills. The amount reflects the exact amount contributed to the fund for the purpose of helping out this specific family. The Selectmen also approved an additional $2,681 from the Caroline Hill fund to supplement the amount this family needs. Although contributions covered most of the amount, the Selectmen noted that was the largest amount ever given to one family, and that they should develop guidelines for the administration of these funds.
The Selectmen also voted to provide $1,000 from the Caroline Hill fund to another family, identified by the Carlisle Public School Business Office as unable to cover medical and supply costs. ∆
© 2008 The