The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 16, 2009

Selectmen balance financial actions

Spend, or cut the budget? Every decision has ramifications, and the Board of Selectmen does not make decisions lightly. With a potential reduction in state aid looming, the board decided at its January 13 meeting to ask town departments to identify 2% cuts in this year’s budget. Nonetheless, the board decided to endorse modest salary adjustments and bring a historic preservation application forward for the town’s consideration at May Town Meeting (See also “FinCom suggests trimming town budgets 2%,” page 1.)

The Selectman decided, after discussion, that non-contractual town employees should receive a 2.5% salary increase in the coming year. The group weighed the fact that unionized employees will receive greater increases, while many residents employed in the private sector will not. The raise for non-contractual employees (at Town Hall, the DPW, and the library) will have a modest effect on the budget – each percentage increase only represents a $21,000 impact, according to Town Treasurer Larry Barton.

The Selectmen also acted on a suggestion from the Finance Committee (FinCom) to ask all town departments to identify 2% in potential cuts to this year’s budgets within the next two weeks. A possible 10% cut in state aid would result in a $143,000 shortfall to Carlisle, according to Barton.

Some expenses cannot be cut, such as insurance costs, regional school allocations and allocations for ice and snow removal, which are already expended with months of winter weather still ahead. In the future, town departments may feel compelled to cut back staff hours and support. Selectman Timothy Hult pointed out that while all department budgets remain flat, even unionized employees will feel the crunch. “If our overrides aren’t approved, there are going to be less of you,” said Hult about employees receiving raises through collective bargaining such as the police and teachers. “We’re going to face that.”

Selectmen Alan Carpenito and Hult subsequently presented a project application for the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to renovate the Highland Building for $450,000 – with a 10% increase to reflect the delay in the start of the project. The application will require approval by voters at Annual Town Meeting in May. Selectmen Bill Tice, while stressing he was not opposed to the project, felt compelled to question how the CPC could spend freely in these difficult financial times, “Here are we with a $409K project and we just added 10%.”

Hult responded that the Community Preservation Act’s 2% real estate tax surcharge provides a reserve to prevent the community’s disintegration during troubled times. CPA funds are used for open space, community housing, historic preservation and recreation. He said, “This is a vehicle where the town can invest in the community.”

Carlisle currently has about $1.4 million in unexpended CPA funds, with the Benfield Land acquisition still drawing monies on it for the next 4.5 years. Unless the town votes to rescind participation in the CPA, Hult feels the Selectmen are compelled to consider new projects. He said, “That’s what the townspeople decided that we would like to do.”

Town raises fees

The Selectmen approved increases and implementation of new town fees as presented by Town Clerk Charlene Hinton and to go into effect on January 14, 2009. The increases include DBA (“Doing Business As”) certificates which will have a fee of $25 (from $10) and certified copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates will cost $15 (also from $10). The new fees of $50 each involve the less common but more time-consuming generation of paperwork for out-of-state death certificates, foreign adoption, home births, and changes to birth, marriage, or death certificates. There are a total of ten such instances a year which would result in $500 of revenue.

Hinton estimated that it takes her ten hours to generate paperwork for the these items, with the exception of the out-of-state death certificate which takes her much more time, and has spanned over four months. Hinton explained that the state requires all certified documents must be typed perfectly – if there’s an error, “strikeovers” are not allowed. Also she must conduct phone calls to follow up on data, particularly in the area of foreign adoptions where the paperwork received is not always consistent.

The Selectmen also approved the building department’s proposal for trench permits as newly required by the state to cover every excavation of soil for septic and cistern work. The cost will run $100 per permit. There’s a slight discount for contractors applying for multiple units in developments. “This isn’t going to solve your budget problems,” quipped Building Commisioner John Luther about the new fees, “but we don’t want it to make it any worse.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito