Friday, September 25, 2009
Board of Selectmen, Carlisle School Committee and Finance Committee issue joint statement
We face an extremely difficult but critical task in putting together the town budget for FY11, the year beginning in July 2010. This letter is intended to alert you to the scale of the issues we face, discuss the manner in which we will attempt to proceed and solicit your involvement and feedback.
Beginning in FY11, the percentage of Carlisle students entering Concord-Carlisle High School as compared to those from Concord increases sharply and will remain at that very high percentage for a three-year period. We have also learned that the High School may require a substantial increase in funds requested from the towns due to reductions in state support and reimbursement. What this means is that the amount Carlisle will be obligated to expend to fund the High School will increase by at least $600,000 (and perhaps as much as $900,000 per year) beyond what we would normally anticipate for each of the next three years. While the percentage of students and the funds required decreases after that, this is quite a large number that will significantly affect our budget planning for the next three years.
This additional budgetary pressure comes in the midst of a deep recession that has caused decreases in revenues from local receipts, state aid and new real estate growth. Most importantly, we fully understand that the recession has real impact on all taxpayers’ ability to absorb increases to property taxes that are already high.
It is also important to consider the potential long-term financial impact of school building projects at both the Carlisle School and the High School. A major project at the Carlisle School will be considered for approval in the spring of 2010. Carlisle’s school building project has been selected by the Commonwealth as one of the 20 or so projects, out of the several hundred submitted for state reimbursement. In our case, the Commonwealth would reimburse us for approximately 40% of the total cost of the project. If we do not act on this project in the spring, the process will start again from the beginning and it could be a long time before the Commonwealth would again consider our school project for reimbursement.
In addition, during this year a group will be formulating the strategy for future renovations at the High School. Given the scope of what is being discussed, these capital projects, if approved, will have significant impact on future real estate taxes.
It is important that you know that all Carlisle town departments, the Carlisle School and CCHS have all been extremely cooperative over the past two years in helping to significantly constrain budgets, avoiding overrides in the face of diminished state aid, local receipts and new growth in the tax base. We are two years into a period of serious belt tightening.
The bottom line is that this will be a tough year for budget planning, the toughest we have seen in quite some time. It will not get easier for at least another two years beyond FY11. Our intent with this letter is not to outline specific solutions. Our approach will be determined by ongoing thoughtful and serious public deliberation over the next year and beyond. What we do intend, however, is to describe the magnitude of the issues that we face and to highlight some principles that we feel are important in meeting these challenges.
By jointly presenting this letter we want to emphasize the importance of cooperation between town committees, departments, employees and citizens in approaching these issues. In the short term, we expect that some combination of reserve expenditure, expense control and taxation will be part of the solution. To make this work we need to foster the spirit of cooperation. No one group will get everything it wants but if we work together we can arrive at reasonable solutions.
It is critical that we communicate clear options to the taxpayers, as you will make the ultimate decisions regarding the budgets and capital projects. In the short term, tradeoffs and impact on services need to be outlined clearly and honestly. It is crucial to convey the impact of incremental decisions, both capital and operating, to the long-term financial health of the town. In doing so we need to balance the impact of taxation with the preservation of the qualities of life we enjoy in Carlisle. Citizens need to stay informed and provide feedback as we work through these issues.
Given the financial realities that we face, it is critical that we remain flexible and creative in considering the manner in which services are delivered. We need to explore restructuring and regionalization concepts to see if they make sense. What makes Carlisle remarkable – fully residential, rural in feeling, with protected open space and superb schools – is expensive. In the long term, in order to preserve these things that make our town special, the model may need to be altered. We all need to be open to new ways of doing our business.
Our committees are committed to working together to present to you, the ultimate decision makers, a reasonable approach to the short and long-term challenges that we face. We appreciate your support, cooperation and involvement. Please give us your feedback either directly by email or by participating in posted meetings and hearings. Together we will preserve the special quality of Carlisle through these challenging times.
Chairman, Board of Selectmen
Chairman, School Committee
Chairman, Finance Committee
© 2009 The