EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 5, 2013

Contracts, insurance woes reflected in budget

Schools leave budget number out of town manager report

ANDOVER — The town manager is calling for the school department and the other town departments to receive 3.3-percent increases in next year’s budget, putting him at odds with school department leadership.

Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski revealed his fiscal year 2014 budget to the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee yesterday. In protest of Stapczynski’s recommendation for the school department, school leaders did not supply a school budget figure they would support.

On page 128 of Stapczynski’s budget report, the school department listed the fiscal 2014 school budget recommendation as “See narrative below.” The page, written by the department, then says “the School Committee and superintendent are not providing the FY14 budget number to the town manager,” and then summarizes why:

1) after years of the current process being an effective budget-design process, the recent economic downturn “necessitates a new approach” to forming a budget;

2) recent tri-board budget discussions have focused on both capital projects and collective bargaining obligations, whereas Stapczynski’s current budget parameters “do not reflect that discussion;” and

3) the school budget for the coming year includes a 3.8-percent reduction in expenses over last year, while including a 3.32-percent increase in contractual obligations based on what’s provided by Stapczynski’s recommendation when an overall 3.65-percent increase is needed to cover contract costs.

That makes it “impossible in FY14 to (a) maintain level services and (b) meet compliance regulations and (c) make specific and sustainable investments in our clearly defined Strategic Plan,” the narrative says.

At Monday’s budget presentation, Stapczynski said that contracts and health-insurance costs are the biggest drain on his side of the budget, just as they are for the school department. From one year to the next, both the town and school departments’ budgets provide for “level funding and level services, at best,” he said.

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