Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

February 6, 2014

Tax bill alarm sounds

Residents fighting back against rising costs

(Continued)

Finance Committee member Greg Serrao said the School Department hired the equivalent of 108 full-time employees in the last two years.

“That’s a lot of bodies, that’s a lot of cost,” he said. “That’s concerning to a lot of us.”

He said the School Department frequently hires people in the summer, after the budget has been closed. Officials simply move money around within the school budget to pay for the extra employees, he said.

That may be all well and good, he said, but one of the problems with that is that health insurance is paid for out of the town budget, further depleting town reserves.

Marden said because the School Department isn’t responsible for setting the tax rate, it doesn’t have to worry about the impact on taxpayers.

“They will always tell you they don’t have enough and need more,” she said.

Making matters more difficult, she said, is that the School Department doesn’t adequately communicate with the rest of the town on what it’s doing with its money.

“I don’t want to say there’s a giant conspiracy to keep information from people,” she said. “One of the frustrations of the Finance Committee is the lack of information we get from the School Department and transparency of exactly what’s happening. I hope that changes.”

She said that in the last few years, there has always been a reason the School Department can’t tell the Finance Committee and other town officials what’s going on.

“It’s either a new superintendent, a new business manager or conversion of information systems,” she said. “I’m not sure there’s an excuse for this year.”

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