FinCom meeting shorts, Feb. 25

by Karina Coombs

The Finance Committee (FinCom) continued looking at FY14 budgets during its February 25 meeting. A long-term capital request from the Carlisle School was submitted and discussed. The committee also heard a funding request from the Board of Health (BOH) in which they asked for an immediate transfer of funds to offset a low account balance for FY13. Finance Director Larry Barton and Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee Chair Don Rober were also in attendance.

Carlisle School presents capital requests

The long-term capital funding request for the Carlisle School was presented by Assistant to the Superintendent Claire Wilcox, who outlined projected maintenance expenses totaling $147,750 for FY14. Wilcox requested $80,000 for the continuation of the Carlisle School’s five-year technology hardware replacement cycle.

Explaining that the Corey Building elevator had some issues over the summer that required new parts to be manufactured, given its almost three decades of service. Wilcox also requested $25,000 be set aside annually for its repair or replacement, beginning in FY14 and continuing up to and including FY16 for a total of $75,000. FinCom member David Model wondered why the school did not just ask for $75,000 up front for elevator needs and said that he did not believe the school should be budgeting items on “lay away.”

An annual request of $25,000 for maintenance projects was questioned by some committee members, given the school’s recent renovation. Wilcox pointed out that the school campus was only one-third new and there were still other items that needed to be repaired or replaced. A request of $13,000 was made for the second of a three-phase auditorium seat refurbishment project, and another $4,750 was requested to replace carpet in the library. The school also requested $24,400 for security equipment, including a buzzer, camera and locks.

The school’s largest capital funding request, of $218,000 to repave both the parking lot and upper bus loading/unloading area, met with a cool reception. School Committee Vice-Chair Bill Fink described the aesthetic issues with the current parking lot and questioned if it might not be a deterrent to the town given the completion of the new Spalding Building. “We could raise taxes to pay for [the parking lot], but given all the other school projects, you know where taxes are going. Do you want to add another point to it?” asked Barton. Lerner stated that he would rather have security [for the school] than a parking lot and the committee agreed it was not the right time for such a project.

Board of Health

Four members of the Board of Health (BOH) appeared before FinCom to request $3,300 in funds be transferred into the committee’s 53E ½ revolving account for FY13. Explaining that the current balance of $4,400 was too low heading into spring, BOH Chair Jeffrey Brem acknowledged the current fee structure was not keeping up with increasing inspection costs, particularly some hours billed by their consultant, Rob Frado. Brem outlined both short- and long-term changes the BOH would like to put in place to ensure the account does not dip so low again (See “Board of Health weighs fee hikes,” February 8.)

Explaining that Carlisle’s four septic system inspections had been “the gold standard,” BOH member Cathy Galligan said that the BOH was going to follow the lead of other towns—both surrounding and comparable—and reduce the number of inspections by 50%. Once that is in place, Galligan believes the BOH can aggressively reduce costs since 90% is directly from engineering. Galligan also explained that the board would be reviewing all fees as it evaluates and makes changes. Barton said that he would work with the committee to find a way to get them the funds and also noted they needed to meet to review the board’s FY13 budget.

Town Clerk request spurs discussion

Town Clerk Charlene Hinton appeared before the committee to inquire about hiring someone to assist her for a few hours each week. While acknowledging she receives some help from local seniors, Hinton explained that she needed more assistance. Hinton was hoping to figure out compensation with FinCom and get approval. Barton informed Hinton that she needed to go before the Personnel Board so they could develop a position description and pay grade.

Hinton also asked the committee about paying election workers, noting that many other towns pay election workers and that those within Carlisle are beginning to ask about the disparity. The committee agreed that election workers should be recognized and thanked for their service, but emphasized that as a volunteer position, it should not come with pay. Hinton then asked the committee if there was a way to fund some food for the election workers as a way to show them their time was appreciated, explaining that in the past she had spent hundreds of dollars of her own money bringing in food and drinks during elections. The committee agreed it was a good idea to recognize the election workers, but Barton explained that general town funds could not be used if the money was only spent on one group within Town Hall and not every employee.

After Hinton departed, new FinCom member Karen Huntress questioned why FinCom looked at school budgets and never questioned salaries, but quibbled over relatively small amounts of funding asked for by various town offices. Model explained that he believed it was the job of the Carlisle School Committee to thoroughly investigate and question the budget proposed by the school. “We’re the school committee for the town,” Model said, explaining that it was FinCom’s job to look at all money requested by the town and determine areas in which it could be cut. ∆