Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

March 13, 2014

O'Donoghue: Blunt talk, tough medicine

Believes critical look at spending is needed

The town needs to stop hiring people, stop spending money on projects it doesn’t need and start maintaining the buildings and facilities it has or face even larger bills in the future.

Oh yeah, and cut taxes, too.

That, in a nutshell, is what Mary O’Donoghue, 57, of 69 Salem St., a candidate for a seat on the Board of Selectmen, wants voters to know about her as she goes around campaigning ahead of the election.

“The biggest issue is the tax burden,” O’Donoghue said in an interview with The Townsman last week. “Overall, the situation is this: Fiscal year 2014 delivered taxpayers a 4.5 percent increase in taxes. The FY 2015 budget, if it goes through, will add an additional 4.7 percent. In one year, that adds up to almost a 10-percent increase in taxes.”

A 12-year member of the Finance Committee, O’Donoghue, a Realtor with William Raveis Real Estate, formerly Doherty & Howe, said she’s hearing about taxes from homeowners, business owners and everybody else.

“It’s not just seniors,” she said. “It’s everyone.”

If elected, she said the first question she’ll ask Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski is: “Why are we taxing almost all the way to the levy limit?”

She said that if the town taxed below the levy limit, homeowners would see an immediate savings in their property tax bills, which could average more than $10,000 in a year or two.

The second thing she would say is: “Stop adding people. Over 70 percent of the budget is personnel, health and retirement benefits. That’s the nut to crack. This budget proposes adding 14 full-time equivalents.” About five them would be added by the town, with the rest going to the School Department.

O’Donoghue said while she doesn’t want to single out the School Department as the main driver of ballooning budgets, she said that in fiscal 2012, the school budget was $63.5 million. For 2015, it’s proposed at $72.25 million, nearly a $10 million hike.

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