Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


April 11, 2013

Letter: Don't demonize employee benefits

Editor, Townsman:

A front page article in the March 21 Townsman focuses on a website by three local businessmen, who highlight “the generous salaries and lifetime health-care and retirement benefits for town employees.” On their website, they demonstrate concerns about $400 million in unfunded liabilities the town owes to retirees in the form of benefits and pensions, but accidentally omit the amounts these employees have contributed annually through payroll deductions to ensure that they might enjoy a viable retirement.

In the article, one man states, “It’s not against town employees. It’s not against the town unions for what they’ve negotiated... the problem is we’re constituents of the selectmen and the town manager.” How many municipal workers in Wisconsin embrace that situation?

Focusing on town expenditures is important, but where was the focus on the $5 million dollar overage for the Bancroft Elementary School construction – and is it over? How about the remodeling of Elm Square? Oops! How much will the town shell out for the once self-supporting building of the much needed youth center? Let’s not forget the chess match played with the Town Yard and its undetermined costs. The end game may loom as checkmate for the Andover tax rate.

Too often municipal employees, including teachers, firemen and police have been placed under a fiscal microscope to be held responsible for frequently mismanaged fiscal crises. In good faith, contracts negotiated legally and fairly under collective bargaining agreements should be honored and respected, not demonized by whimsical and mercurial sentiments of public opinion.

I can assume the three gentlemen in the article will publish their pensions and health-care packages, though not financed in any way by Andover taxation. However, we retirees purchase the products and services their companies provide, ensuring in some degree their corporate stability and financial foundation.

Despite our property values declining for the past decade accompanied by major increases in property taxes, the answer seems to be focused on municipal employees and their benefits. The website is quoted in the Townsman as saying it is trying to do it with “no spin, just facts and a little fun.” We retirees are not laughing.

Peter McCarthy

69 Andover St.

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