Licciardello Lashes Out… Respectfully

By: Tom Duggan – February, 2007

 NORTH ANDOVER – At a recent meeting of the Board of Selectmen, where the town’s capital improvement plan was being discussed, tax and spend “school advocate” Cindy Jalbert stood before the board whining about how the town needs a Prop. 2 1/2 Override and how her Committee on Capital Planning was not being included in the process of the capital improvement plan. 

Selectman Tom Licciardello, so frustrated with Jalbert’s nonsensical rhetoric, took a few minutes to address the misinformation she was giving the public. “It is amazing how many obstructions people will throw in front of an attempt to make forward progress,” Licciardello said. “To have a plan brought forward, to have it open for discussion, does not mean a final decision was made … . So, I have to say Cindy, I get a little frustrated when I hear people immediately begin to throw up roadblocks, because, ‘well, you didn’t talk to me personally about this.’ ”

 Jalbert continued to whine, cutting off the selectman. “We want to be in on the ground floor before you do anything with your buildings,” she charged. “You don’t think it would have been appropriate to let the School Committee know you were presenting a five year plan … .”

 At that point Licciardello had had enough. “Look, Cindy, I have answered your question. I really do not want to hear the questions asked again five times. We have a busy agenda and I would like to move forward.”

 Jalbert continued to insult and interrupt the meeting: “I find it funny to watch Tom Licciardello stand there and say to the school department a few months ago ‘kill Foster Farm, the town will never go for it,’ and then watch him two weeks ago say ‘this town will stand behind an override for the schools.’ Well, I’m sorry I find it a little contradictory to watch you do that, Tom!”

 “Let me explain this one last time,” a respectful but obviously flustered Selectman Licciardello responded. “My position has not changed on that one bit, and let me explain it loud and clear. A plan that the citizens of this town won’t support based upon projections that are inaccurate is very different from a well-thought-out plan based on good solid planning and supported by all of the boards. That’s the kind of thing I think the people in this town have been crying for. Show us a good, well-thought-out plan and we will support it. But, I am so glad you raised this issue because one of the things I have been getting frustrated about is that some people think the people of North Andover don’t care about our children because we don’t spend enough in our school department. I would like to – at long last – have that notion dispelled.”

 “I keep hearing how we don’t spend at the state average (for schools). I asked the town manager to do a little work on that and what we found, in fact, was that there are a few different pieces to look at when you fund education. One of the pieces is the foundation budget, that is, what the town spends from the tax dollars it raises. That means net of Chapter 70 (what the state gives us), our spending in North Andover, minus Chapter 70, is $7,468 (per pupil). The state average is $6,018; that’s 24% higher than the state average.” 

“The difficulty is that the Chapter 70 money we receive from the state is significantly lower. So if anyone here would like to yell at people who are not spending enough money on the children, don’t do it to the good folks in North Andover who are spending 24% more, whose family tax rate is 44.7% higher than the state average. Call your repre-sentatives at The State House and say, ‘where’s the money?’ ”

 “Where’s the money for those programs that you have demanded that we have? Where’s the money for the special needs programs you demanded we have? Where’s the money for the transportation programs you say we must have? Why won’t you let us join the GIC health insurance program? Why do we have to have the prevailing wage program that makes us spend 300% more to fix a roof on one of our schools than if we had an average contractor come in and do? Those are the people you ought to be yelling at! I am quite frustrated at hearing how the people of North Andover don’t care about their kids. It’s not the truth. And I will submit to you that I believe if we do our planning correctly, if we show the people of this town that we can manage in a fiscally responsible way, and we can plan so we are doing the right thing for the town, absolutely they will support an override. I have people coming up to me every day from both sides of the political spectrum saying to me, ‘prove to me your doing the right job and I will pull out my check book any day.’ ”

 “We have a perception problem we have to fix, and one of the ways to do that is to stop telling people what a terrible job we are doing. We’re not doing a terrible job in our schools and we are not doing a terrible job on the municipal side.”


Editor’s note: AMEN