Rethinking Concord’s budget preparation 

By Anne O’Connor
October 6, 2023

Should the town budget be prepared and voted on as three separate budgets or as one “omnibus” budget? 

At the last Town Meeting, Moderator Carmin Reiss considered the question after a motion came from the floor to wait to vote on the town budget until the article for the school budget was discussed. 

Putting the town’s operating budget and the budgets for Concord Public Schools and Concord-Carlisle Regional Schools in the same article follows a practice other towns use successfully, she said. 

“You can see the tradeoffs” that must be made in the town budget, Reiss said, if, for example, a school budget is changed. 

Putting the three operating budgets in the same warrant article can be done with a consensus of the Finance Committee, the Select Board and the school committees, she said. 

The Finance Committee weighed the possible effects on its duties and the budgeting process during its October 19 meeting. 

The Finance Committee is charged with making recommendations about the budget, said Chair Parashar Patel. The Select Board is responsible for putting the budget together. 

If the change is made, the FinCom will still need to create yearly budget guidelines recommending how much of an increase, either by dollar amount or percentage, taxpayers can accommodate. 

The next guidelines are due in October for Fiscal Year 2025, which begins in July 2024. After those come out, the FinCom holds hearings with departments to discuss budget requests and make recommendations.  

The new format might encourage the different entities to communicate more during their own budgeting process, Patel said.  

A single budget, rather than three separate ones, could help voters to see what effect changing one line item would have on the overall budget, he said. 

The proposed change would affect only the operating budget, not the capital budget separately, Reiss said. Carlisle uses a similar format. 

Town Meeting could always decide to take up parts of the budget separately, Reiss said. 

The committee came to no conclusions and agreed to take up the discussion again.