He then offered to restore $200,000 in funding to the School Department to help alleviate the impact of the original cut.
His proposal was seconded by Selectman Brian Major, at which point a heated debate ensued over the purpose of Kowalski’s measure.
“So the rationale for this is frustration over the budget process?” Selectman Mary O’Donoghue asked.
Kowalski replied: “My proposal was not as a result of frustration with the budget process. My proposal was the result of late-in-the-process policy changes that should have been part of the discussion at the time we made it. We made a late policy decision that we as a board should have communicated prior to the point we did.”
He was referring to selectmen’s decision to cut $600,000 from the budget, including $400,000 from the school budget and another $200,000 from the town budget — a decision that he said put additional stress on the schools.
But Kowalski’s amendment failed on a 2-3 vote, with O’Donoghue joined by selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli and Paul Salafia in opposition. Salafia said after the meeting he voted against giving the schools more money because he wants to send a message that the spendthrift days of yesteryear are over.
“It’s time we draw the line,” he said. “We didn’t single out the schools. We asked all town departments to cut back. It’s time we started to set the tone to save as much as possible every year.”
Townofandover.com takes aim at town finances
While selectmen and the School Committee continue hashing out the budget, a semi-organized group of people in Andover are also targeting spending, although not necessarily in the schools.
Bob Landry, a local resident who runs a company that specializes in health care issues, started a website a year or so ago called “townofandover.com,” with the stated mission of providing transparency in local government. Landry worked closely with the late Greg Rigby, who died in February, to post information about all sorts of internal and external town government decisions.