Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 6, 2012

Letter:Seniors deserve town financial support, too

The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman:

Regarding the Aug. 23 Andover Townsman article, “Schools to get extra $608,000 upfront, I am a senior in this town and I cry “Foul.” Why is it that whenever the town obtains additional resources, the apparent knee-jerk choice is to designate these assets for school use?

In line with this approach, town boards have once again decided to allocate from the “unexpended funds account” the equivalent of all the recent state-aid “found” money, $608,000, for use by the School Department, even though the School Committee has presented no pressing, urgent, specific need for these funds.

The Townsman acknowledged some months ago that “Andover is not a community geared toward seniors”, and that “Past surveys of residents have shown people do not see Andover as a great place for senior citizens to live” (Editorial, Andover Townsman, Feb. 9, 2012). This second-class treatment of the town’s seniors was reflected, for example, in the town manager’s budget allocated for elder services in 2013. The relevant line item, which jointly covers Elder Services with Community Services and Youth Services, (comprising a mere $1.66 million out of the $147.2 million total, or 1.1 percent) was reduced by thousands of dollars. Moreover, out of this total allocation, only about one-fourth represents expenditures for other than necessary personnel -- and even this minimal allocation was cut by thousands of dollars. No wonder every penny must be carefully watched at the Andover Senior Center, so that even a “white board” is a discretionary purchase.

These cuts were made despite the fact that the overall town manager’s budget increased some 2.3 percent, while the school budget went up 3.3 percent.

Fairness alone dictates that seniors receive more support from the town. My annual taxes have increased some four-fold since we moved here some 25 years ago -- far more than any increase in my property value. During these years I have supported the schools, even though my children had moved on. Such community sharing, however, needs to work in both directions.

Elder Services provides invaluable benefits to a significant segment of the town’s population. These include services for seniors who have paid taxes into the town’s coffers for years and who either now rely on town assistance to help make ends meet, or seek support for a meaningful, fulfilling retirement.

For those not familiar with these essential resources, they include: a drop-in center; health clinics; nutrition program/Meals on Wheels; outreach and counseling; a social day program, and for those seniors not needing such aid, a central place for cultural, social and educational activities. With the recent expansion to include the new baby boomer program, BoomerVenture, those over 55 also have exciting choices such as challenging exercise, life learning, and, as of this September, a quality independent film series that is open to all town residents.

These senior-focused programs importantly enhance the quality of life for a substantial segment of the town’s residents. They should get more town directed financial respect – and support.

Lois Karfunkel

22 Orchard Crossing