Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


September 17, 2009

Solving a budget puzzle: Emergency funds for schools, no leaf pickup among proposals

Town leaders are still searching for the right pieces to solve the jigsaw puzzle that is Andover's currently unbalanced 2010 budget.

Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski estimates the town's deficit to be $1.4 million, after a property tax growth deficit figure was revised and Town Meeting voters approved a hotel tax increase on Aug. 31, that will bring $320,588 in additional revenue for the year.

Both town and school leaders are working on lists of possible cuts, negotiating with labor unions for contract concessions and pouring over budgets line by line in preparation for an Oct. 7 Special Town Meeting.

Several warrant articles have been submitted in hopes of helping the schools close a budget gap without impacting students, including taking money from free cash and the stabilization fund - the town's "rainy day" money. A private citizen has also submitted a warrant article to increase the meals tax in town, which was defeated by eight votes at the August Special Town Meeting. Another idea is to eliminate curbside pickup of leaves.

More pieces of the puzzle may come together tonight, Sept. 17, as the school and finance committees join selectmen for a tri-board meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Schools ask for $1 million from rainy day funds

The School Committee has submitted warrant articles asking for sums "up to $500,000" be transferred from both the stabilization fund and free cash to the school and town department operating budgets, to offset the FY2010 budget deficit.

Stapczynski passed out copies of the warrant to attendees at Monday's selectmen meeting, just hours after it closed on Sept. 14. He emphasized that the two warrant articles asking for stabilization and free cash funds were not written by him, and town departments would not accept money from either, despite the wording "school and town department operating budgets."

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