EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 5, 2014

Proposed $86M budget would add deputy fire chief, five part-time library positions

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — If the budget proposed by Town Manager Andrew Maylor wins approval at Town Meeting on May 19, fire Chief Andrew Melnikas will gain a second-in-command.

The job was eliminated several years ago due to fiscal difficulties. Maylor told the Finance Committee last night the position “served our community well.”

He said he anticipates the deputy chief would have a major role in developing Fire Department policies. The present command structure of the department consists of Melnikas and nine lieutenants. There are no captains.

Maylor also wants to restore five positions at the Stevens Memorial Library. These positions were lost due to budget reductions a decade ago, he said.

The positions would be part-time — the equivalent of two full-time jobs — and would not includes health insurance and other benefits, Maylor said. The added positions would give the library roughly the same staffing it had in 2002, he said.

The Finance Committee did not take a vote on these proposals last night. The board will make a recommendation on the budget before the annual Town Meeting on May 19.

Maylor has proposed a budget that totals $86,504,915. This includes the $41,457,660 spending plan for education, which the School Committee approved last week.

The selectmen voted to support the entire budget Feb. 24. The proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year, which will begin July 1, exceeds last year’s budget by 4 percent.

“How long can we keep this up?” Finance Committee Chairman Alan LeBovidge asked.

Maylor said a 4 percent annual increase is a “sustainable number.”

An account that will likely rise well above 4 percent is the one for snow and ice removal. Last year, roughly $750,000 was budgeted for that service.

As of last night, the snow and ice account was running a $700,000 deficit, Maylor said. State law allows cities and towns to spend into the red to keep the streets plowed — but the shortfall must be erased in the following fiscal year.

Maylor is calling for increasing the snow and ice account to $875,000 next year — just about a 17 percent rise.

Public Works Director Bruce Thibodeau noted there have been “many more storms this year than last year.” Several of those storms, he said, have dumped 10 to 12 inches of snow.