Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

August 16, 2012

Manager, selectmen clash as raise debate continues

By Dustin Luca
Staff Writer

---- — Selectmen and the town manager seem to have a fundamental disagreement over a question at the heart of determining what, if any, raise he should receive.

The question: When the town eliminates a position, but pays to outsource the work, should the full salary count as sustainable savings? The town manager believes it should, but selectmen seem to believe the money paid to the person now doing the job must be deducted from the “savings” total.

Selectmen are grading Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski on his performance in the previous year.

Stapczynski believes he saved the town $225,000 in “sustainable operating budget savings” tied to “salary and health benefits,” as the goal reads, and wants selectmen to pay by the rules they set.

The goal is worth 50 percent of Stapczynski’s overall raise value for the coming fiscal year, and partial credit is obtainable if $225,000 in savings can’t be achieved.

In their discussions, Stapczynski has said that he eliminated two full-time, vacant positions for a savings of $166,526, and seven families opting out of health insurance coverage brings the total saved last year to $231,806. After Monday’s discussion, Stapczynski added that the town spent $5,680 to increase the salary of an employee at the Water Treatment Plant picking up extra work for one of the eliminated positions, reducing the total to $226,106.

But one of the eliminated positions was a cemetery laborer at Spring Grove Cemetery, and the town outsourced that work to a private contractor for $29,050, Stapczynski said. As the selectmen see it, that brings the total savings to $197,076, meaning Stapczynski fell short of his goal and will only receive partial credit for that 50 percent of his raise.

Stapczynski disagrees.

“The definition of savings, if you look at how it’s defined [in the goals], savings was salary and health insurance,” said Stapczynski.

Responding, Selectmen Alex Vispoli started to tell Stapczynski that he needs to consider the cost of outsourcing the work. “The thing is, you can’t...” is all he got in before Stapczynski continued talking.

“Don’t tell me that now,” said Stapczynski. “I would have had a whole different kind of approach to the budget in January.”

“We said sustainable savings,” said Vispoli.

“And it’s sustainable in salaries, and it’s sustainable in benefits and retirements,” added Stapczynski.

“With increased costs over here,” said Vispoli, indicating towards the town’s expenses. “With increased costs to one side.”

“There’s no prohibition to that,” said Stapczynski.

Minutes later, Selectman Dan Kowalski told Stapczynski that he “could have eliminated $500,000 worth of employees, let’s just say hired a company to do it for $1 million, and you’re still saying that you’d be saving $500,000.”

“That’s an extreme example, but in part - yes, absolutely,” said Stapczynski. “Because $500,000 in employees could be 10 employees with all the benefits that go along with 10 employees, and I should be given credit for reducing the head count now and in the future, because that’s less costs we’re going to have when we don’t fill that vacancy.”

In response, Selectman Mary Lyman related Stapczynski’s argument to home budgets.

“Buzz, if it was your home budget and you decided not to do a task anymore and you hired someone, you’d have to pay it out of your budget, and you’d be down that much more money,” said Lyman. She added she agreed that he saved around $20,000, but not the full $48,295 the position is worth.

“Then, the definition should have said salaries, expenses and health insurance,” said Stapczynski.

“And we can talk about that, but you understand that the taxpayer at home doesn’t care - does not care, at least, that you managed to outsource it,” said Lyman. “They’re still taking a dollar out of their pocket and sending it to the town to get the job done.”

The board is expected to continue and possibly conclude its review of Stapczynski’s performance at its next meeting, where they will determine Stapczynski’s raise based on his ability to complete four goals set last year.

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For feedback and questions on this story, please email dluca@andovertownsman.com.