“Personnel is 70 percent of the budget,” O’Donoghue said. “You can nip and tuck in other areas, but that will have no effect unless you do something about personnel.”
Oberto added, “People out there are losing their jobs and houses while people in Town Hall are getting pay raises.”
When asked about the rising cost of health insurance for town employees and retirees, Oberto said she went to a meeting last week of retired teachers to hear the town’s presentation on switching that group out of the state-backed GIC insurance program and into the town-funded program.
“Everybody is a little upset with this,” she said. “You don’t want to hurt anybody, but you need to get the best price for everybody.”
Someone in the audience asked about communication between the various boards and commissions and the town manager.
O’Donoghue seemed to think communication has improved, while Oberto said it could get better.
“Communication has improved in the recent past,” O’Donoghue said. “There is more collaboration than in years past. You have to listen carefully to colleagues and make a decision. In tough financial times, you have to give a little to get a lot.”
Oberto agreed that communication is “the key,” but added that it has to be based on “what’s best for Andover. It has to be a grown-up conversation. It can’t be kids in the school yard.”
Throughout the forum, both candidates stressed that the power in town lies with residents at Town Meeting.
O’Donoghue touted her experience on the Finance Committee, saying that the “power is with you, the residents ... the Board of Selectmen vote on the budget, but the people at Town Meeting rely on the Board of Selectmen and town officials for good information. They rely on the advice they get from the town.”
Oberto agreed, saying “the most important thing is to get involved in town government.”
The forum was televised live on Andover TV and will be re-broadcast on Channel 22 for Comcast customers or Channel 45 for Verizon customers. Check local listings for times.