Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

May 1, 2014

Stage set for spending battle

Town Meeting to tackle budget, funding requests amid taxpayer concern

(Continued)

He is continuing that work himself and has been meeting with other groups around town to come up with a strategy on how to approach Town Meeting. An online survey went up last week to gauge voter interest on issues headed to Town Meeting.

Last year, members of his group nearly succeeded in cutting the town’s health insurance budget — falling just 87 votes shy.

This year, with more members and more information on its website, the group has created a loosely organized coalition of like-minded people whose members will take turns at Town Meeting in an effort to cut the budget, Landry said.

“It’s shocking how we can spend 45 minutes on a dog park, yet Article 4 — a $160 million budget — just gets rubber-stamped,” he said. “The budget gets put up and people just go along. The choice is either: ‘Choose the budget or we have no police or fire department.’

“Dog parks are important, but not as important as the $160 million we spend on the town budget.”

Landry said if nothing else, he wants to promote more discussion about costly expenses.

“Our view is that there needs to be a more robust form of debate,” he said. “Town Meeting should be full of debate and amendments with active discussion on Article 4 (the budget).”

He said that while selectmen did trim more than $1 million from the budget, the question remains: “Did they go far enough? Are citizens in town satisfied? Residents are going to take matters into their own hands.”

As such, he expects amendments to be proposed on the use of $1.5 million in free cash to shore up the so-called OPEB account, which funds non-pension benefits to retired town workers.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t pay a dime until the system is reformed in a major way,” he said. “It’s a retirement benefit; why shouldn’t it work just like a pension?”

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