Friday, October 9, 2009
Town Meeting over easy: 17 minutes for two articles
The Special Town Meeting on October 5 provided an opportunity to meet the new Town Administrator Tim Goddard and new Moderator Wayne Davis, get updated on the Carlisle School Building project and to vote on two pieces of obscure business that will have the effect of reducing taxes in FY10. Apparently that was enough to bring townspeople out on a cool fall evening, and a quorum was easily reached so the meeting could start on time. A total of 208 voters attended.
“We did everything we possibly could to not have to have a Town Meeting,” said Selectman Tim Hult. “I very much appreciate people coming out.” He then handed the gavel to Davis, thanking outgoing moderator Tom Raftery, and introduced Goddard, noting that he is Town Moderator in Littleton, so “we have a backup.” He thanked Madonna McKenzie for her nine years as Town Administrator, stating “We’re a better managed town for her services.” The audience offered McKenzie a standing ovation.
Davis introduced the business portion, saying, “It’s a rare privilege to live in a democracy . . . and an even rarer opportunity to consider lowering the taxes.” The meeting was called because the town has been the beneficiary of a Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA) lump-sum payment of promised reimbursement for a previous building project. As of this summer, Carlisle still had outstanding debt from a Carlisle School expansion of the 1990s. The MSBA had been reimbursing a share of this debt each year, but offered a lump sum of $1,450,000 to help the town pay off the outstanding obligation. This allowed Carlisle to reduce its debt, an advantage at a time the community is looking to finance new schools and also saved the town over $100,000 in interest. However, since the May Town Meeting had already allocated $197,030 to Long Term Debt for payment of the outstanding bond, to reduce that budget required a second Town Meeting.
The Special Town Meeting provided an opportunity to clean up another issue, the shortfall in Quinn Bill (incentives for police education) payments from the state. Over many years the state and Carlisle had shared these costs. At the May Town Meeting, it was assumed that program would continue. However, the July cherry sheet contained $9,868 from the state instead of the expected $59,104, explained Treasurer Larry Barton. As the police contract allows reduction in Quinn payments as a result of state shortfalls, the Town Meeting voted to adjust the police budget and to transfer some of the savings to pay for the cost of retaining former Town Administrator McKenzie as a consultant to help transition Goddard to his new role.
The first Article provided that $16,000 of reduction in police salaries be transferred to increase the budget for general government to pay for the Town Administrator transition costs. It then lowered the police budget an additional $33,000, which will result in a reduction in spending and property taxes, according to Barton. The total police reduction is $49,000 and the new police budget is $1,832,926. Article 1 also provided that long-term debt be reduced by $197,030, the amount the town would have paid in FY10 if not for the MSBA program. Without discussion, this article passed unanimously in a voice vote.
Because the bond terms do not allow the town to pay off the entire debt, a reserve account was set up to make yearly payments. Article 2 provided that $4,046 be transferred from the debt reserve account to the debt service account to pay principal and interest on an outstanding small portion of the bond. This article also passed unanimously.
After the two articles passed, Carlisle’s FY10 long-term debt stood at almost exactly $1,000,000. ∆
© 2009 The