Monday's Select Board meeting. Image via Minuteman Media Network

Select Board pauses on affirming school budget ahead of Town Meeting

April 23, 2024

By Christine M. Quirk — 

The Select Board voted Monday night to affirm several articles for next week’s Town Meeting — but stopped short of endorsing the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District budget.  

There’s a $159,000 discrepancy between what the School Committee has requested and what the Finance Committee recommends. The School Committee was scheduled to discuss this at its Tuesday meeting. 

“We wanted the School Committee to bring the budget in line with the Finance Committee recommendation,” Select Board Chair Henry Dane said. 

“If the Finance Committee changes it, so be it, but wherever we can, we should support guidelines set forth by [the] Finance Committee.”  

School Committee Chair Tracey Marano. File photo

Tracey Marano, chair of the regional school committee, speaking for herself, said funding has decreased statewide. In order to reduce the budget for the 2024-2025 school year, seven full-time positions have already been cut. 

Making up the $159,000 deficit, Marano said, would mean cutting a full-time computer science teacher and part-time chorus teacher.

“Without the computer science teacher, students won’t be able to complete the engineering program,” she said. “I understand and respect the roles of the Select Board, but we have a responsibility, too.”  

School Committee member Courtland Booth, also speaking for himself, said the recommended cuts came from Superintendent Laurie Hunter, not the board. “We haven’t discussed it, and we would be wise to look at it [on April 23],” he said.  

Finance Committee Chair Parashar Patel. File photo

Finance Committee Chair Parashar Patel said he was not aware of pending changes pending in the school budget; if any arose, his group would discuss them.  

“We consider a lot of factors,” Patel said. “We’re looking from the ground up at the needs of the school and the town, and we’ve had these conversations the whole budget cycle.”  

He said the town looks at objective data regarding income, inflation, and potential tax increases.  

“Things are the way they are,” Patel said. “It’s okay for good people to disagree occasionally. We can agree to disagree, and ultimately it’s up to the voters.”   

The Select Board will review any new information at its April 29 meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. ahead of the Town Meeting, and potentially make a recommendation at that time.   

The Board did affirm Article 24, the schools’ capital budget.  

Additional articles recommended 

The Select Board addiitonally affirmed Article 7, which amends appropriations from the 2023 Town Meeting. Town Manager Kerry Lafleur said this is a reallocation of existing funds and does not change the overall budget. 

Articles 38 and 39 are citizens’ petitions urging the Select Board to direct the Town Manager to issue a request for proposals within three months for cell towers at the landfill on Walden Street and the public works parcel on Keyes Road, respectively.  

While the board had no issues with the landfill site, the public works campus poses some issues: The Public Works Commission has opposed this article, saying their site needs a large, unobstructed area where equipment and trucks can move in and out and turn around safely.  

Lafleur said after concern was expressed that the three-month timeline was too short, the petitioner is expected to amend that to six months at Town Meeting.

“The Public Works Commission is willing to support this (Article 38) if additional time is provided to make an assessment,” Lafleur said.  

The Select Board voted No Action on Article 39, and will wait for the final motion for Article 38 on Town Meeting floor.


The board also discussed the May 1 Special Town Meeting’s single article: To authorize borrowing up to $10.4 million to design and build grid-scale battery storage in town.  

“This protects us from the risk of a system-wide failure of the grid,” Select Board Member Mark Howell said.  

Clerk Mary Hartman said the project would raise electric rates by only a dollar a month for a year, and then the rate would drop: “This is an investment, not an expense,” she said. “We have had businesses that wanted to install solar and couldn’t, because we don’t have the capacity.”  

While member Terri Ackerman supported the article, she said there have been some challenges to data which has been presented.  

“This is a recommendation for a large battery, and there is thought of a medium battery,” she said.  

Lafleur said electrical engineering staff recommended a large battery, and reminded the board that debt acquisition can only be authorized once a year. If the town votes to fund a medium battery and then decides a larger size is better, the project could stall.  

“It would be before the Light Board, but if we don’t have the full borrowing authorization, it could impact the project for the good of the grid,” Lafleur said.  

Said Dane, “We have in many areas a very capable professional staff, areas in which we and the voters have very little expertise.

 “If we can’t rely on the expertise of the staff we hire, that’s the problem, not whether or not we take action,” he said. “I think the people involved in this particular project are highly competent.”  

The Select Board voted for affirmative action on the article, and also agreed to make a motion at the beginning of each Town Meeting session to not consider new business after 10 p.m.  

Town Meeting begins at 7 p.m., Monday, April 29, at Concord-Carlisle High School.

This story has been updated.