Pepperell Town Administrator, Mark Andrews.

What’s good for the goose … is just that, good for only the goose.

Analysis

(Updated with correction: see below. – Monday, May 7, 12:43 PM)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Pepperell, Massachusetts – Town Administrator recommends public safety budget decreases while seeking personal pay raise of $17,260 – Increasing his pay to $126,000 …

Tomorrow evening, the town of Pepperell will hold its annual town meeting.

While there are about twenty articles on the meeting warrant, the major item for deliberation is the town’s fiscal year 2019 (FY 19) budget for police, fire, veteran and elderly services, schools, administration and various other departments.

The finance committee (FINCOM) has made its recommendations for spending, and at the last committee meeting gave its annual admonition to the regional school system about its spending – in particular, how school budget increases forced further reductions in the other town departments.

The school committee agreed to some cuts after being asked by the FINCOM to revisit their budget. With those cuts of about $45,000, the school budget seeks an approximate 9% increase for FY 2019.

Town administrator Mark Andrews and the FINCOM suggested the increase in the school budget still required reductions elsewhere in town services.

According to budget documents available on the town’s website, both Andrews and the FINCOM recommended cuts of $677,950 from the budgets requested by all departments.

Public safety department budgets represent about $488,000 (or about 72%) of the reductions to the  departmental requests.

Correction:

In the original article we reported the

Veterans Services Department is actually receiving a cut from last year of at least $15,000 in direct benefits to veterans, even though they requested an increase of $5,000 over the FY 2018 budget.” 

It should have read:

The Veteran Services Department (VSD) is actually receiving a cut from last year’s appropriation for direct benefits of $5,000 –  despite the VSD request to add $15,000 to that line item for veterans services. 

(We apologize for inverting the figures, however, in the end, the FINCOM and town administrator recommended a $20,000 reduction from what the VSD actually requested for needs of veterans for the coming year – which was the point of the reporting.)

But while he is recommending the veterans budget cuts, Andrews has included a hefty raise of $17,260 for his position. 

Some of the town administrator and FINCOM inspired and proposed reductions are detailed in the chart at the end of this story. 

Seeking greener pastures?

Near the beginning of the new year Andrews interviewed for a new job with the West Newbury board of selectmen, despite signing an original contract in 2014, and two updated amendments to the contract, which included a promise that he would not interview for any other position until December 2018.

Besides going back on his word not to seek another position until the last year of his contract, Andrews made statements in his interview which belie the way he interacted with many of Pepperell’s department heads in addressing their budget needs – especially when contrasting his inclusion of a 15% raise for himself, while recommending deep cuts to other department budget requests.

This is some of what Andrews stated in the West Newbury interview when asked about his management style:

“… I ask myself this question: What would I have to do as town manager each day?

“What needs of the people around me, the leadership team, department heads, what are their needs to do their job that I can help them with? And I will ask that question every day…

“I would also let you know that I am very big on dependability …”

Andrews did not get hired by West Newbury.

But he did get yet another amendment to his contract from the Pepperell BOS – a contract which was drafted just weeks after his failure to abide by the language in the three previous versions of his contract and which was not set to expire until November of 2019.

The rush to extend the town administrator’s contract is in stark contrast to Andrews’ failure to re-negotiate a contract with the police chief – a contract set to expire in less than sixty days.

Outgoing selectwoman Melissa Tzanoudakis and her colleague, and current chair of the BOS, Roland Nutter, not only voted to give Andrews a raise of $17,260.00 for FY 2019, they eliminated the clause in the contract limiting his looking outside of Pepperell for a new job.

The whole process raises the possibility that Andrews and his two BOS supporters were concerned that the money be available for his raise ahead of any others if there was a shortage of funds.

Selectwoman Lisa Ferolito opposed the contract change.

Andrews recently submitted his notice to vacate the town administrator position, a week after the annual election brought about a seismic shift in the make-up of the board of selectmen. (Click here for a recent story in The Candle regarding Andrews decision to retire.)

In a brief memorandum, Andrews wrote the BOS, “Please be advised that I have processed my retirement with the Middlesex County Retirement System. Thank you for the opportunity to serve the residents of the Town of Pepperell.”

Despite the BOS announcing it is seeking candidates to be appointed to a search committee for a new town administrator (click here for link to committee information and application process), it is not clear when Andrews will leave – an unknown that participants at town meeting might seek an answer to.

The town meeting is the legislative body for town affairs – including the creation of the town’s budget.

Tomorrow night, voters get to ask questions, debate, establish priorities, and then decide how they want the town to spend its treasure.

According to the town meeting warrant (click here for a link), the Annual Town Meeting begins at 7:30 PM, tomorrow, Monday, May 7, 2018 in the auditorium of the Nissitissit Middle School. 

Department  Name  

 

Town Administrator

FY 2018 Budget

 

177,270

Department Request

 

183,527

Adminstr. Recmnd.

 

196,206

Net Difference

 

12,679

Notes

While about $7,000 was cut from other salaries, it appears to include $17,260 raise for Town Administrator (approximate 15% raise instead of maximum 2.5% annual raise per original contract), also gathered from new Town Administrator contract.

 Town Accountant   157,060   163,693    148,111   (15,582)  Most of the cuts are in wages, hourly.
 Assessors   114,550 133,553   118,085  (15,468)  Most of the cuts are in wages, hourly.
 Town Clerk  59,404  90,528   73,927 (16,601)  Most of the cuts are in wages, hourly.
Conservation Commission  49,142  55,380   50,693 (4,687)  Most of the cuts are in wages, hourly.
 Town Hall 76,342 78,129  37,375 (40,754)  Most of the cuts are in wages, hourly.
 Police 1,639,830 1,858,626 1,722,927 (135,699)  Police Chief requested increase for two new officer positions. Town administrator/FINCOM recommended only one, and beginning in October not July.
 Fire 284,684 415,498 280,879 (134,619)  Most of the cuts are in wages, hourly.
 Ambulance 467,929  752,785 541,575 (211,210)  Ambulance Department has requested $231,000 in new spending on wages. Town Administrator/FINCOM cut the rquest by $162,900. Also cut about $27,000 in on-call wages, stipends, and overtime.
 Communications 321,673 333,829   327,202 (6,627)  Most of the Town Administrator/FINCOM recommended cuts were for hourly wages and overtime.
 Highway 699,561 733,642  718,168 (15,474)  Most cuts recommended by Town Administrator and FINCOM were paving related, and for overtime and gasoline.
 Board of Health  67,574 105,035    70,150 (34,885) Board of Health wanted what appears to be a half-time social worker which seems to be cut  recommended by  Town Administrator/FINCOM.
 Council on Aging   180,851   187,738   185,752   (1,986)  Cut of $1,000 in programs from FY 2018 budget.
Veterans Department    184,100 199,249 179,249 (20,000)  All of the Town Administrator/FINCOM cuts are for actual Veterans’ Benefits. This represents a cut of $5,000 in benefits from FY 2018, in addition to the requested increase from the Veteran’s Department head.
Total Cuts from Department Requests (640,913)  This figure represents only the cuts listed above. However, about 72% of the total cuts of $677,950 were from Public Safety Department Requests.

 

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