Friday, March 6, 2009
FinCom avoids override
Free Cash, cuts to cover extra school expenses
Seeking to avoid placing a Proposition 2 ½ operating override on the ballot for Town Election while accommodating over $306K in over-guideline budget and transfer requests, Finance Committee (FinCom) has revised its earlier budget strategy. By the close of their March 2 meeting the committee had tentatively planned to transfer a total $260.6K from the town’s Free Cash, to raise taxes up to the town’s Proposition 2-1/2 levy limit, and to cut 10% from the guideline budgets of three of the four land-use boards.
Proposition 2-1/2 is a state law that restricts the amount of tax that a municipality can raise and the amount taxes can rise in a single year. The levy limit is the maximum amount of taxes a town can raise without voting an override of Proposition 2-1/2.
At a February 9 meeting, having learned that the governor’s budget projected $133K more in state aid than the guideline budget assumed, FinCom had planned to apply this new revenue to fund most of the requests over guideline by non-school town departments. The committee had assumed that overguideline requests from the Carlisle Public Schools and Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) would have to be covered by an override. (See “State Aid $133,000 more than expected for FY10” and “Fincom revisits budget requests,” Feb 13, 2009.)
$306K added within levy limit
However, by Monday March 2 Carlisle Public School Superintendent Marie Doyle and FinCom member Ed Sullivan reported that CPS had lowered their above-guideline request from about $140K to about $95K, and the Regional School Committee had theweek before lowered Carlisle’s overguideline assessment by $40K. So, on March 2 the FinCom included the schools’ requests in a total of $306K in expenses added to the levy-limit budget.
Covered by this amount were all or part of the Carlisle School, Concord- Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) and Minuteman Regional High School’s above-guideline requests, as well as overguideline amounts for police, fire and other town departments. Also included were about $91K in transfers earlier approved [see Table 1 below].
Free Cash at $994,000
Free Cash is a budgetary fund balance built up over time if town receipts exceed expenditures. Once a year the town’s Free Cash balance is certifi ed by the state, and Town Meeting can transfer funds from Free Cash to meet expenses or reduce the taxes raised. Since the amounts available fl uctuate unpredictably from year to year, Finance Committees historically have been reluctant to use Free Cash to support routine budget items.
For FY10, FinCom had already planned to transfer $75K to the town’s Stabilization Fund, to mitigate the impact of several years of higher CCHS assessments starting in FY11, and $15.8K to cover extra requests approved by the Long Term Capital Requirements Committee. Beyond these, FinCom had hoped to let the Free Cash accumulate in anticipation of those higher CCHS assessments.
After accounting for this year’s transfers, Free Cash has been certified at $994K, nearly $300K more than the balance at the close of last year. Treasurer Larry Barton estimated that a similar amount might fl ow into the fund at the close of this fiscal year, given that the Selectmen have asked several departments not to spend budgeted amounts.
Free Cash transfers and cuts
Instead, according to the FinCom’s current plan, the added expenses will be covered by a transfer of $260.6K from Free Cash. FinCom also plans to use $26K in “excess levy capacity” (taxes allowed under Proposition 2 ½ but not yet budgeted) and cuts totaling $19K in the guideline budgets of the Planning Board, Board of Health and Building Inspector (see Table 2 below) to make up the difference. Chair David Model felt that the land-use regulating boards would be able to cut staff hours due to the current slowdown in real estate development.
Schools reduce requests
Doyle plans to achieve the Carlisle School over-guideline reduction in part by “restructuring” a requested full-time psychologist position to part-time and by dropping the request for a specialist for the English Language Learner program for students with English as a second language.
In fact, Doyle, FinCom member Ed Sullivan and Carlisle School Committee (CSC) members indicated that the $95K over-guideline request might shrink even more after the administration has a chance to study how to reorganize for the work involved. How much less would be asked should be known by the time the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) votes on a fi nal budget Wednesday night (March 4), according to CSC member Wendell Sykes.
The regional school district will receive about $216K more than expected, and the RSC has agreed to apply much of that to reduce both towns’ over-guideline requests. This will lower the prior $86K over-guideline request to $46.9K (see “CCHS receives additional state aid,” February 27, 2009).
Will others “go along?”
FinCom will meet Monday, March 9 at 7 p.m., just prior to the Warrant closing on March 10 and Model and Barton warned FinCom that success depends on whether the CSC, Long- Term Capital Requirements Committee, and land-use boards “go along” with the plan. “When the Board of Health, Planning and Inspections fi nd out [about their cuts] they may want a hearing,” Barton cautioned.∆
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