EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

September 5, 2013

Letter: Andover deserves better pension performance

To the editor:

As a former member of the Andover Finance Committee, it is difficult for me not to say I told you so, but...

While the Board of Selectmen and town manager gave away the store in benefits in union contracts and continually failed to pay for them under the “watchful eyes” of the Finance Committee, the residents trusted that both had the taxpayer’s best interest at heart. Alas, it wasn’t so. As we discovered in the editorial “Public pension shortfalls threaten municipal solvency” in the Aug. 25 Eagle-Tribune.

They approved municipal contracts negotiated in favor of the unions not only for larger wages which result in larger pensions, but with increased benefits resulting in higher costs. For over 25 years current and past members have failed to pay for the benefits they promised, leaving them to future taxpayers. They proposed budgets to Town Meeting without explaining the expenses they weren’t funding or worse without the knowledge, understanding, or foresight of simple compounding liabilities. The longer their individual tenure and the more ensconced they are in the process, the less receptive they are to fighting for change and the more of the blame they must shoulder. Their solution sounds like that of a first grader: “Every other town is doing it.” But every town is not doing it. Andover is ranked 83 out of 105 pension systems. Most towns are doing better than Andover.

When a voice rises above the din to suggest a change or highlight a problem, it is quickly silenced. Dick Howe, before he resigned from the Finance Committee in 2011, presented an idea that all contracts be approved by or at least presented to Town Meeting before they were signed. He only received support from newer members and strong opposition by long-standing members of the committee. The idea never moved forward.

All the time spent by town boards on budgets over the last 25 years and a grade of “D” is the best they can achieve? They should all be embarrassed. In business, they would be forced to resign. Andover deserves better.

Gregory J. Rigby

Andover

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