By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The total proposed town budget of $84.3 million survived a hearing before the Finance Committee last night.
No one stood up to challenge or oppose the fiscal plan crafted by Town Manager Andrew Maylor. None of the Finance Committee members present last night raised any objections.
The $84,297,553 spending plan, which covers the fiscal year beginning July 1, exceeds the budget approved last year by 2.36 percent. Maylor said that by enrolling in the state Group Insurance Commission, the cost of providing health coverage to employees in his proposed budget is actually $310,000 less than what was earmarked last year.
The total budget includes $39,863,136 for education. The School Committee unanimously approved that amount Feb. 13. That figure is 4.12 percent higher than last year’s school spending, but Maylor explained he was able to incorporate that number into his recommended budget.
Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson, who recommended the not-quite $40 million school budget, explained the addition of a few new positions. A special education teacher who concentrates on teaching children with autism has been added to the budget, at an annual salary of $54,000.
“Autism is a growing disability,” Hutchinson pointed out. Other jobs added to the budget include a psychologist for elementary students, $60,000; a language-based special education teacher, $54,000; and a part-time special education speech pathologist, $20,000.
The need for these services has also increased, Hutchinson said.
The proposed school budget includes a $150,000 contingency fund to cover the unexpected costs of special education. Maylor praised that feature.
Maylor also presented the $9,893,265 budget he has proposed for the enterprise funds — the Water and Sewer departments as well as the Stevens Estate. The Water Department budget has been set at $4,891,704, while the spending plan for sewers has been proposed at $4,729,588.
Spending for those departments is $366,482 less than last year, the result of reduced debt, according to Maylor. He said he will not recommend an increase in water and sewer rates.
The Stevens Estate, a town-owned property that is rented out for wedding receptions and other functions, has a proposed budget of $271,973. For several years, the Stevens Estate had deficits but that has changed since 2012, Maylor said.
The estate is “projected to continue profitability,” he said. Maylor credited the director of the Stevens Estate, Erin Flannery, with achieving the turnaround.
Maylor told the selectmen Monday night and the Finance Committee last night the snow and ice removal budget is currently running a $605,000 deficit. He said he is confident that he, Assistant Town Manager Ray Santilli and Finance Director Lyn Savage will be able to plug the gap before the end of the fiscal year.
Finance Committee Chairman Alan LeBovidge said he is pleased the town has made “great strides in public safety.” When asked why his board has not called for any reductions in Maylor’s proposed budget, he said there is probably little or no room to cut.
The voters will have the final word on spending at the May 21 annual Town Meeting.