The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 5, 2008

RSC seeks budget compromise

Faced with two budget proposals involving either a Carlisle tax override or cuts in services, the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) on November 25 considered a new budget proposal that seeks a middle ground. The new budget proposal would involve a 5.2% increase over last year.

The Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) preliminary needs budget for next year totals $22,660,000, representing a 6% increase over the current budget. Because Carlisle is expecting little revenue growth, the town may need a levy limit override to accommodate this option. Even with a 6% increase, the purchase of a new school bus would be deferred and the supplies purchases, cut by 50% last year, would rise only 3.5% to allow for inflation.

A smaller 4% increase has been proposed that would involve the following cuts: not replacing a retiring Health Curriculum Specialist, reducing radio station staff, reducing co-curricular stipends by 10%, losing 0.5 full-time-equivalents (FTE) in the Guidance Department, cutting clerical support, professional development and athletics.

Neither budget included a list of new requests which include: 0.5 FTE technology specialist, 0.25 FTE theater teacher, 0.25 FTE TV production elective, 0.25 FTE dance elective, a campus monitor, and intramural soccer program and 0.25 FTE English Language Learner (ELL) teacher. These would cost about $136,000.

New proposal - Tier II

Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations John Flaherty suggested a new budget, called Tier II, that is between the two previous budgets. This budget is 5.2% over the FY09 budget and roughly $306,000 more than the 4% budget, now referred to as Tier I. The Tier II budget does not cut staff, so the $75,000 that would have been needed for unemployment insurance would be saved. Supplies, professional development and athletics would be restored and the co-curricular stipends would not be reduced, although the number of radio station staff assistants would be cut from two to one. The purchase of a new bus would still be postponed and there would still be a 0.5 FTE cut in guidance staff. The list of new requests would still not be addressed.

Concord Finance Vice-Chair Mark Howell said, “We [Concord] would be able to accommodate all these budgets without an override if excise tax and state aid do not go down.”

RSC Chair Jerry Wedge thought that Carlisle could handle the Tier I budget. RSC Chair Peter Fischelis said the Tier II budget is an attempt to come down from the preliminary needs budget and try not to significantly cut programs.

RSC member Jan McGinn questioned the 0.5 FTE reduction in the Guidance Department. “How is that a reasonable thing to do?” Superintendent Diana Rigby said that currently there is a 150 to 1 student-to-guidance counselor ratio. The 0.5 reduction would bring that ratio to 300 to 1, which is the average ratio in surrounding communities.

A frustrated Fischelis said, “For the last five or six years we have been trying to build our program. We planned to take more steps, like adding a dance class and intramural sports. We are now taking steps backwards.” Flaherty said that intramural sports would cost roughly $3,500. “We can’t find this money. A Tech Specialist is needed. We have all this new technology.” McGinn said, “I want to meet some of these unaccommodated needs.”

The RSC will make a final decision at a future meeting. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito