Friday, January 29, 2010
FinCom praises Carlisle School’s no-growth budget, Hears CCHS facility plans, other long-term capital requests
The largest single item in the town budget is the Carlisle Public Schools, which came in at $9,007,421. One might expect that School Superintendent Marie Doyle would be in for a long evening of budget negotiations with the Finance Committee (FinCom) at its meeting on January 25. On the contrary, Doyle had barely warmed up her chair seat when FinCom members enthusiastically accepted her annual budget and thanked her for her years of service to the town. The reason is simple. Doyle submitted a level-funded budget identical to FY10 and which met the FinCom levy limit guidelines.
How the school was able to do this is not so simple. “We’ve done it through a reduction in administration, a reduction in clerical and we’re looking at reducing some special education costs,” said Doyle. “We’re doing more work with less people.” FinCom member David Model questioned the almost $74K reduction in maintenance costs. “Some costs are rolled into the building project and some we’re going to deal with this year [FY10],” explained Doyle. “As you know from Long-Term Caps, we tried to put a lot of expenses in the building project so we get the 40% reimbursement.”
Offering some possible future budget relief, Doyle said the school population “right now” is 703 students, and “it’s supposed to drop into the high 600s.” School Committee member Louis Salemy reported that Wayland cut their school budget by 5%. “I can’t even imagine what that would do to the Carlisle Public School system,” said Salemy. “When I look at how we fared versus other schools, everyone should hold their head high.” FinCom members agreed and Doyle thanked them for their support. “We really appreciate it,” she concluded, and the appreciation was no doubt mutual.
CCHS improvements planned
School Committee member Louis Salemy attended the budget hearing to update members on the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) Facility Master Plan (FMP). The 17-person FMP committee is composed of representatives from Concord and Carlisle, including School Committee, Board of Selectmen and school administration personnel. They have been meeting twice a month since last July to provide the community with options for addressing the needs at CCHS. This includes roadmaps for capital repairs to keep the buildings functioning and to resolve facility shortcomings.
“We hired a phenomenal architect, OMR, who’s done the Beede Center and the Willard School,” said Salemy. The Office of Michael Rosenfeld (OMR)was chosen from 14 applicants and “they were head and shoulders above everybody else.” The FMP committee has also successfully engaged the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA) and has received a positive response from that organization regarding the choice of architect. The FMP committee expects to publish a Master Plan final report on their web site by March 10, 2010.
The committee has sought community input from the beginning and sponsored a half-day visioning session that attracted 30 to 40 participants. One reason for urgency is the possible loss of CCHS accreditation due to deficiencies in the science labs, SPED and ADA accessibility. The roof, gas distribution, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems are at the end of their useful lives. “CCHS does not meet programmatic needs of a 21st century high school,” said Salemy. He describes the high school as “a San Diego style campus that leaks heat.” More specifically, “It’s a sprawling, hugely energy-inefficient campus all on one floor.”
Feasibility study funding sought
The FMP committee explored seven different design approaches provided by the architect and have narrowed them down to three. Each of the three approaches will now be vetted on cost, phasing, sustainability and ability to meet programmatic goals. A Warrant Article requesting $1.3 million for a feasibility study will be proposed at annual town meeting. The $1.3 million number is based on information provided by MSBA based on similar feasibility studies at neighboring high schools. The debt service on this will be shared with Concord according to the student ratio in each year that the debt is paid. It will also be reduced by whatever amount MSBA is willing to reimburse.
FinCom Chair David Guarino summed up the cost to Carlisle, using 40% MSBA reimbursement and 30% student ratio as an example, as being 30% of 60% of $1.3 million, which is $234K. Many details remain to be resolved and numerous alternatives will undoubtedly surface in the months leading up to annual town meeting. “There is infinitely more certainty with respect to the proposition for the Carlisle Public School (CPS) project than there is for the high school,” observed Carlisle Financial Director Larry Barton. Most agree that the current high school building is highly inefficient on many fronts and lacks the space to adequately meet the needs of the student population. Salemy is optimistic that a renovated facility will be significantly more efficient and will generate substantial savings in utilities and maintenance. “The combination of savings in utilities, maintenance and special education should generate a cost savings of $1 million per year,” he concluded.
“Last year we had a levy limit of $239K; we’re trying to do $214K this year,” began Don Rober, chair of the Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee (LTCRC) at the FinCom budget hearing. “We are $242K at the moment.” Rober explained that the Carlisle school “got a bunch of stimulus funds”, which allowed LTCRC to remove $80K in technology replacement. This was a big help in limiting the school requirements to only $25K for annual maintenance.
The largest items on the LTCRC budget are $47K for SCBA bottles/packs replacement for the Fire Department, another $47K to replace the DPW ’96 one-ton dump truck, and $45K for a fiber-optic cable between the communications center and the Fire Department’s transmitter at the school. The wire that they are leasing now from Verizon is costly and inadequate, and a fiber cable will save about $9K per year. The police would also like a $12K antenna and repeater to be installed in the Westford Street area to cover a blind spot in their town coverage. Another budget item is an energy task force expenditure of $14,680 that would result in an estimated savings of $4K per year. They plan to insulate the Town Hall roof and replace light fixtures, as well as improve the efficiency of the lighting at both the DPW and police buildings.
FinCom allowed a $10K cost for computer replacement at the library to remain, but members decided that $10K for outside lights at the Police Station “could be pushed off for another year.” Three of the lights still work, but the others, which are too close to the driveway, have been damaged by snow plows. “Replacement lights would be located further back with a sturdier base,” said Rober. After a round of emotional opinions as to the necessity of each item on the LTCRC budget, members of the FinCom decided to defer funding for both the $10K police lighting and the $12K antenna/repeater. This lowered the final LTCRC budget to $218K and, while not quite meeting guidelines, satisfied both Rober and the FinCom as being close enough for the first go-around.
The next FinCom budget hearing is scheduled for February 1. ∆
Preliminary Town Meeting timeline
Finance Committee (FinCom)/Selectmen (BOS) -
budget meetings with depts, boards, committees Ends March 8
Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee (LTRC) -
review capital plans Ends March 8
Structural Financial Planning Committee -
final recommendations January 28
Community Preservation applications due January 29
BOS review first draft of Warrant February 8
LTRC - recommendations due to FinCom/BOS February 8
BOS/FinCom/LTRC/Community Preservation Committee -
1st coordinating meeting February 9
Town Caucus March 1
FinCom - final recommendations March 1 - 15
2nd coordinating meeting, close Warrant March 15
Warrant mailed to residents April 20
FinCom Public Hearing on Warrant April 26
Town Meeting May 10
Town Election May 18
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