Throughout the summer, the Townsman will be focusing on the Andover budget, and encouraging residents and workers to suggest new ideas about how to run Andover more effeciently. These ideas will also be printed in the paper each week. If you have an idea send it to email@example.com, or to Editor, Neil Fater, 33 Chestnut St., Andover MA 01810.
Elizabeth Wolf, of Sagamore Drive, believes the Andover Public Schools might save money by having teachers spend more time in the classroom.
"The amount of prep time the teachers have - it's a system that really needs to be looked at again. Everyone else is tightening their belts. It seems like in this environment, if you truly feel the kids are being hurt by cutting teachers, I find it disingenuous to say we can't cut our prep time. When that contract is up next year, I would use (prep time) as a huge bargaining point," she said.
Wolf also believes Andover could save money by encouraging kids at all schools to recycle more, thereby reducing trash-hauling costs.
"I work as a substitute teacher at both the Pike School and Greater Lawrence Tech. One of the things I find shocking is that GLTS doesn't recycle as much as Pike. At Pike every room has a recycling bin, and the older kids collect and organize the recycling. At GLTS, it's rare to see any recycling going on in the classroom. It's a little thing, and I know logistically it would be hard to do. But if you could institute recycling, it would save the town money (by reducing trash tonnage). If you start it young, and the kids are used to it, by the time they get to high school, it's just second-nature to them," she said.
Rosemary Hempstead, resident and former school employee, says Andover should hire "an outside, high-priced professional negotiator" who will more than pay for him or herself by negotiating more reasonable contracts with Andover's many unions.
Apache Avenue resident Stephen Stapinski compared the water department reports from Andover with Rye, N.H., where he also owns property. Andover's has been a glossy, multi-page book with reports and charts. The Rye report has been four pages of photocopies.
The Rye report "probably cost several cents, and the cost for producing Andover's was probably much more," said Stapinski, an Andover Finance Committee member. "Both met the regulations that the EPA has for water reporting. Andover book is certainly more informative, but the point is we only need to only meet regulations, and not embellish. It's nice to embellish, if we had the money, (but saving money) could drop price of water for users. If we can do for 10 cents what we're doing for 50 cents, why don't we?"
Stapinski also suggested the town explore the idea of privatizing services— from snowplowing to roofing - as a way to cut costs.
"For example, the water treatment plant. There are communities where the water treatment plant is a private entity. By privatization you have to pay the salaries, but the benefits and retirement are private. Also cemeteries, there are companies that provide cemetery services, and janitorial services is an obvious way to privatize. Or we could have a private entity maintain the town vehicles - that way you don't have to have a garage."
"I'm not suggesting that this would save the town money, but they have to be investigated. In some cases, privatization might cost the town more. Changing a muffler might cost town more from a garage than if you had a town employee do the job. But on the other hand, with a town employee, you pay for the muffler, the labor, his retirement, benefits and those other things that go into that employee," he said.
"I don't mean to imply that employees should be replaced without studying. There needs to be a tremendous amount of study done to see if there are efficiencies and cost savings to implement, and we may find that there aren't. But finding that there aren't is a good thing, because it has us understand how efficient we really are and lets the taxpayer know how efficient we are."
Dick Howe, Finance Committee member, believes the town should sell Old Town Hall, 20 Main St., and collect the annual property tax.
"Andover should place a deed restriction on the Town House to preserve¬�this structure¬�as an important part of the historic fabric of the town center. Then we should sell the building for a higher and better use that would generate more traffic in the downtown area and that would generate some property tax revenue," he suggests. "As it is now, the town subsidizes the U.S. Post Office by charging a rent of only¬�$1 per year. Rentals of the upstairs hall don't come close to covering the¬�significant maintenance costs, such as last year's repairs to the historic slate roof. The offices in the back of the first floor are not fully utilized and could be relocated into other town buildings."
Selectman Alex Vispoli offered several ideas. In his words they are:
Continue to aggressively manage the towns vehicle fleet, including:
1. Extend vehicle life before purchasing replacements, including police cruisers, ambulances, DPW equipment and fire trucks
2. Look for ways to reduce the fleet
3. Reduce take home vehicles - develop a pool concept, where vehicles are shared
Health Insurance is one of the town's largest cost escalators over the past five years. Continue to mine additional savings from exploring alternative health insurance plans
Through outsourcing, examine facilities needs to determine if we can reduce our square foot requirements, especially as we explore Town Yard options
Development of an IT master plan with all town departments. Through virtualization, and application sharing with other towns, look for ways to reduce capital IT infrastructure costs and ongoing hardware and software maintenance. We have launched a team who has just completed phase one of this assessment.
Continue to expand on use of the town's Web site for permit applications, self service for permits, inspection requests, and other resident services.
We continue to request changes from the state via our local legislators, to make key changes in the bidding laws that will save cities and towns significant dollars. This includes a change in the prevailing wage laws regarding privately funded projects on town-owned land.
Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Editor Neil Fater, 33 Chestnut St., Andover MA 01810.