Friday, February 27, 2009
Selectmen eye three rising School budgets
Issues involving the balance in maintaining existing buildings and new construction continue to dominate Carlisle Selectmen agendas and discussions. The Carlisle School, the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), and the Minutemen Regional School all were discussed by the Selectmen on February 24.
Lee Storrs, chair of the School Building Committee (SBC), updated the board on the Warrant request for $450,000 to cover the schematic design phase of the Carlisle School building project (see article, page 1). Selectman Tim Hult pressed him again on whether or not the state will commit to reimburse 40% of the costs without requiring the town to vote on budgeting for the entire building project.
Storr answered, “We will be reimbursed for the feasibility study even though it is not a commitment to build.” Storrs added that the state did question the number of classrooms and the reason for multi-purpose room, and if not approved, building these items may not be reimbursed by the state. The SBC has explained their reasoning, but has not yet received any response on whether or not reimbursement for these might be excluded as early as the schematic designs.
“Their process is incomprehensible to me,” said Hult and reiterated that the feedback was essential to clarify to the town voters the exact cost of the project.
On the positive side, Storrs presented a chart of the projects under consideration by the state for funding. “We’re further along than 59 other projects,” said Storrs and added that Carlisle is only competing against 19 other projects at the moment. Furthermore, in consideration of the edict that only projects that can be “shovel-ready” in 185 days will be funded, the committee submitted two components for consideration.
The Selectmen again discussed a possible levy limit override, which may be necessary to fund the town’s portion of the high school budget. Using “free cash” would not necessitate an override this year, but it would diminish the funds available next year when a larger override looms.
The board reviewed CCHS long-term capital request of $225,000. (These are in addition to the $750,000 in capital projects requested via debt exclusion funding, see article, page 1.) The $225,000 request includes funds for replacing auditorium curtains, main office carpeting, bathroom partitions, compressors, air conditioning, fire alarms and planning funds. Physical maintenance items were clearly supported, but the group wondered about a line-item for $75,000 to fund a “planning study.” Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie explained that the study would cover the maintenance projects that need completion if the CCHS proposed building project is rejected by the state again. [At this time, the project does not even appear on the chart that Storrs presented earlier.] Hult requested that a representative from the Regional School Committee visit the Selectmen to better explain the proposed project.
Dr. Edward Bouquillon, Superintendent/Director of the Minuteman Regional Vocational High School, addressed the Selectmen to request that the town consider establishment of a stabilization fund to handle emergency repairs at the aging school. When he came to Minuteman two years ago, he reported being surprised that no such fund existed, and believes it “prudent” to establish one. He hopes to slowly build the fund over the years with allocation of any excess budget (anything over 5% goes back to contributing communities by state law). Next year the proposed budget looks like $17million, an increase of 2.9%. Bouquillon spoke of the need for the school to bring down per student costs and admitted, “We’re too expensive. We’re working on that.”
At present seven students from Carlisle attend the school, and one town resident belongs to the faculty. The request to establish a stabilization fund will appear on the Town Warrant. ∆
© 2009 The