Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

March 20, 2014

Officials move to quell taxpayer unrest

Underride, budget caps among proposals to trim spending

Taxpayers may see less of an increase in their property taxes next year thanks to a vote last week by the Board of Selectmen.

But some town officials, and at least one resident, warned that if the School Department doesn’t go along with the plan, taxpayers won’t see any savings at all.

School officials, meanwhile, say the problem isn’t the school budget, but low revenue estimates by the town manager and the shifting sands of a fluid budget process.

“It’s Groundhog Day,” said outgoing School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue, noting that the budget debate going on this year is no different than years past. “I call it the dance. This is an annual discussion.”

Forgue said the problem is that final revenue numbers aren’t in and Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski typically underestimates the amount of money the town is going to get from such sources as state aid.

“This has been going on a long time,” he said. “But it puts the schools in a tough spot. It’s unfortunate. We have to advocate for funds, and people think we are asking for more than we should be getting. We’ll budget to whatever the number really is, but we have to come to a consensus on what the number really is.”

Others aren’t so sure.

Mike Roli of 2 College Circle, a senior citizen and frequent critic of town spending, told selectmen and Finance Committee members at a joint meeting last week that residents are tired of tax increases and officials need to rein in the schools.

“It’s time for you to stand up to them,” he said. “You need to tell the town residents they (the School Department) are the reason you can’t reduce the budget.”

He added, “Maybe you should tell taxpayers just how much it costs to take care of schools ... that they have increased the number of teachers in two years — by 108 teachers. Now, in this budget, they want to add another eight. They are a runaway School Committee with a runaway superintendent. There is no control in this town over those people.”

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