Editor, Townsman:

Andover officials shouldn’t delay any further deciding on retiree health insurance benefits, better known as OPEB. Why not use the OPEB sub-committee report with its recommendations dated November 2014 as a starting point for discussions?

Selectmen must act now by holding open public meetings.  Our town is at a critical crossroads.  As a result each passing budget year, the hole gets deeper and more costly - over $160 million and rising.

One thing that everyone agrees is that the OPEB cost is growing at an unsustainable rate.  Why wait to implement some meaningful changes where you can? For example, the Selectmen have the ability right now to lower the town’s contribution to 50 percent of premiums for retiree plans as allowed under current Massachusetts state law.  

Instead, taxpayers continue to pay well above 50 percent required threshold causing the Town to have about $1.5 million less annually in its budget for schools (significant high school improvements), public safety (Ballardvale Fire Station) and other basic services.

In fact, the November 2014 report recommended reducing the current contribution of 71-77 percent to the 50 percent state-minimum. It also identified Andover as consistently contributing above the average, when compared to 18 area communities. Furthermore, the report provided several other recommended actions including exploring alternative employment methodologies such as outsourcing where it would not be mission-critical to the delivery of services.

Andover’s future health and financial stability is at stake if officials don’t enact immediately relevant changes and measures to curb rising health insurance costs. 

Joe Albuquerque

197 Greenwood Road, Andover 

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