The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 13, 2009

Finance Committee learns of state-owned land revaluations, Minuteman assessment change

State payment “in lieu of taxes.” At their March 2 meeting FinCom learned from Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie that Mass. Department of Revenue has been sending to other towns appraisers assigned to re-value state-owned properties. The result has been lower valuations for state-owned land in those towns, usually to half as much as the prior valuation. Should this happen to Carlisle, the $221K in “payments in lieu of taxes” received this year for state-owned properties could be cut substantially. In anticipation FinCom has reduced their assumption about how much the town would receive from the state by $100,000.

The FY10 “guideline” budget (the working budget FinCom has used to determine income and expenses for the town next year) included over $126,000 in excess levy capacity. (It is not unusual for towns to raise less in taxes than the absolute Prop 2½ limit, and “excess levy capacity” is the term used to describe the difference between the maximum that could be raised under Proposition 2 ½ (the “levy limit”) and the taxes actually raised in a given year.)

Of this excess levy capacity, FinCom has applied $100,000 to counter the potential loss of “in lieu of taxes” state aid. If the assumption of a loss next year happens, the Board of Assessors will need to raise $100,000 more in property taxes; if not (that is, if the state pays the same amount as this year), taxpayers will pay $100,000 less.

Minuteman. Carlisle’s assessment for Minuteman Regional High School for next year has risen by about $32,000, to just under $185,000 for seven students. Patrick Spencer, District Accountant, explained that a loss of enrollment, from 469 to 431 resulted in Carlisle’s share of the operating costs rising. To mitigate the anticipated impact of a reduction in state aid the school will also use more from the Excess & Deficiency Fund than last year, and has cut administrative staff. FinCom Chair David Model suggested that further cuts might be merited given the loss of enrollment.

Spencer also explained to FinCom that each town’s assessment is only partially based on proportion of enrollment. Instead, the Department of Education calculates a “minimum spending requirement” for each town; the balance of operating and debt service costs are then assessed proportionally, based on the district agreement.

Model also suggested FinCom should “pay some attention” to the school’s budget process, and in particular to decisions on major capital expenses expected over the next few years. ∆

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