EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 16, 2013

Resignation stalls consolidation efforts

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — Budget season is heating up, but the committee charged with finding ways to consolidate municipal and School Department operations is taking a six-month hiatus.

A consolidation committee made up of city councilors Tom Ciulla and Jamie Atkinson and School Committee members Lynne Hajjar Kumm and Mark Graziano lost a member last Tuesday when Graziano resigned from the School Committee.

As a result, Kumm, the committee chairwoman, said the group won’t meet again until after the Nov. 5 municipal election.

“We had a strong member in Mark,” said Kumm. “I’m looking forward to restarting the committee after the election. I think we could have done more, but there were some challenges with Mark’s availability. He has a demanding job.”

Graziano works as director of finance and operations at The Pike School in Andover. He stepped down from the School Committee last week because he is moving out of Methuen to Salem, N.H., where he recently purchased a home.

“He was our number cruncher,” said Ciulla. “He was pretty vital to the committee.”

The consolidation committee formed in September 2012 but met less than five times, Kumm said. The group sought to eliminate redundancies between the city and schools but ultimately made no recommendations to the City Council or School Committee.

“I was disappointed with the pace,” said Kumm. “I feel we will get there. This is just a delay.”

Kumm said it will be difficult for the committee to make recommendations and cost savings projections now without Graziano’s background in finance and data analysis. Her hope is that a candidate with a similar background wins election to the School Committee this fall.

“It’s best to see what happens after the election,” said Kumm. “I want another strong candidate from the School Committee side. I think it should be a balanced group.”

Turnover of elected officials is also what stalled a previous incarnation of the consolidation committee in 2011.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Atkinson. “But I think it would be advantageous for us to have someone with a finance background to help us decipher the numbers.”