Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 5, 2013

Town manager's goals on table while salary talks on hold

By Bill Kirk

---- — Midway through the fiscal year, Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski is still awaiting his annual compensation package from the town.

But as his raise remains on the table, the town manager continues to fulfill his 2013 goals as new ones for next year begin to take shape.

Last year, the Board of Selectmen approved Stapczynski’s compensation package in September, awarding him a 2 percent merit increase and a $737 bonus, bringing his annual salary to $151,123.

Stapczynski should have been scheduled for a new raise sometime this fall. But the town manager said last Friday that he and selectmen aren’t currently talking numbers.

“We are not negotiating at the moment. We’ve been busy with other things,” said Stapczynski, whose current five-year contract with the town expires in 2015.

A subcommittee of the selectmen, made up of Chairman Alex Vispoli and member Paul Salafia, has held numerous meetings and given several updates to the board about the town manager’s 2013 goals.

Any salary increase or bonus would be tied to whether Stapczynski met those goals and how he approaches future ones, officials have said. Once approved, his raise would be retroactive to July 1.

So far, Stapczynski has fulfilled many of his current goals, although a couple remain out of reach:

Funding the town’s pension and retiree health insurance liability. Stapczynski presented an update on his plan at a Tri-Board meeting of selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee. The plan includes a variety of measures to reduce the long-term cost of retirees’ pensions and health insurance, including making larger annual payments into the town’s retirement system as well as making structural changes in union and non-union contracts to reduce the town’s long-term liability to retirees.

Merger of the Department of Public Works and Plant and Facilities. Although selectmen say the goal was reached, the project is still in the works and a new director for both departments has not yet been hired.

Creation of a payment in lieu of property taxes program for nonprofit institutions, such as Phillips Academy, Merrimack College and Pike School, that are not required to pay property taxes.

Although he missed the April due date, Stapczynski did file a so-called PILOT report in July, which included an in-depth analysis of how much local nonprofits would have to pay the town if they were for-profit entities.

The only school that currently pays the town is Phillips Academy, which voluntarily contributes about $150,000 a year as part of a five-year agreement that expired June 30.

Completion of labor contracts with the town’s bargaining units. That task has been only partially finalized, with the firefighters’ union contract currently in mediation and the agreement with department leaders still being negotiated. Both contracts expired in 2011.

Two initiatives with the School Department: Allowing the town to use school facilities during vacations and summer months and bringing custodial services in the schools under town control. The School Department is allowing limited use of certain school facilities during some vacations, but has rejected the idea of consolidating janitorial services.

Completion of two major building projects: Bancroft School is under construction and should be ready by next year; construction of the new teen center was slated to start this week.

Management initiatives: Efforts including an employee evaluation program for department leaders and outsourcing town and school payroll services, among others, are in the works.

Goals not met

Relocation of town yard from downtown. There has been little discussion of the initiative since a rezoning proposal for the town yard area was narrowly defeated by Town Meeting in May. Selectmen have urged Stapczynski to get to work on a plan and to put the town yard on the agenda for next year. Stapczynski, however, has countered that he is seeking policy direction on the issue from selectmen.

Relocation of Ballardvale fire station: While a task force continues to hash out a recommendation for a new site, the town manager says he has not met that goal due to a “lack of clear policy direction” from selectmen, among other problems.

Future goals

Several new goals for 2014 and 2015 are being added to Stapczynski’s plate, including the renovation of Andover High School, future collective bargaining strategy for union contracts that are about to expire, and an overall concept for improving customer satisfaction for people in need of town services.

Vispoli said Stapczynski recently visited Somerville to observe how that community treats residents seeking assistance.

“He spent half a day with them to see what they do,” Vispoli said. “If you look at overall customer satisfaction, it impacts a lot of service delivery.”