Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

June 5, 2014

'Business as usual' death-spiral must end

Editor, Townsman:

The Town of Andover has significant unfunded liabilities, $90 million in unfunded pension costs and $145 million in unfunded other post-employment benefits. OPEB mainly is health benefits for retired town employees. Now is not the time to rant and rave as to how we got here, but rather the time to stop practicing insanity. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. With respect to this issue, “business as usual” is a financial death-spiral — things have to change and fast.

Personally, I support the notion of employers providing comprehensive benefits to their employees. However, it must be done in a responsible and sustainable manner and what the town is doing today is clearly unsustainable. It is fair to say that the Town of Andover provides very generous benefits to its employees. Certainly more generous than the benefits offered in the private sector and more generous than required by law. Changes can and should be made to the current benefit offering so that we don’t continue to add to our already huge, unfunded obligations. We can change eligibility criteria, employee contribution amounts, and plan design and offerings.

To effect these changes, the town manager, selectmen and the unions representing town employees need to work collaboratively to determine a sustainable path forward regarding employee benefits. Simply put, there is no greater risk to the town’s financial health and welfare than this issue. It is time to put self-interest aside and do what is best for the town and future generations.

Every town resident should be urging the aforementioned parties to come to the table and fix this issue.

Greg Serrao

Finance Committee member

40 Morton St.

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