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Andover Education Association Questions 3/20/18

1.    What will you do as a Selectman to foster a sense of civility and professionalism to the office as a member of the Board?

My campaign is based on the following promises: I will listen first, work hard to find consensus, and I will address others with respect, even when we disagree.

I have always been impressed with Andover’s elected and appointed officials. The dedication of these volunteers makes our community better. However, recently many in Town have lost faith in the character and direction offered by our current leadership.    

The Board of Selectmen set the tone for the entire Town. Having a skilled, hardworking, efficient board is critical to the success of our community. Over the next three years, we will make important decisions on our residential and commercial tax rates; we will need to find ways of making it affordable for our Seniors to stay in town, and we have to find a cost-effective solution to deal with the overcrowding issues at Andover High. To be successful on these issues, we need a Board of Selectmen that can work together.  Reasonable people can disagree, but we need to work together to advance our common goals.

2.    What do you view your role in terms of supporting the West Elementary building project?

Two of the most important tasks delegated to the Board of Selectmen include responsibility for the Town finances and care of our property. I expect the Board of Selectmen will appoint a liaison to work closely with the School Committee as this project, and others, begin to move forward. The Board of Selectmen could also facilitate public information hearings, ensuring the public is informed and the community is engaged. As a Town, we need to work together to balance investments in our school buildings against our available resources and our ability to incur debt.

3.    What do you view as your role, if any, regarding the AHS Building Task force currently working under the leadership of Annie Gilbert?

In this case, the role of the Board of Selectmen is to make a recommendation to Town Meeting regarding investments for construction and renovation of our school buildings and infrastructure. I expect that the Board of Selectmen will work closely with the School Committee and AHS Building Task Force to find cost-effective solutions that address our long-term needs. We can work to host community forums and engage the public about the issues of safety, over-crowding and inefficiency affecting our current High School building. To be successful on these issues, we need a School Committee and Board of Selectmen that can work together. 

4.    What was/is your position on retiree health care benefits? As you are likely aware, there was a unilateral change to the premium contribution that went to court and is now under appeal.

I support the recommendations of the 2016 OPEB Advisory Committee. Andover currently faces a $184 Million OPEB liability. If nothing is done, Andover’s OPEB liabilities will grow to $652 million in 30 years. Andover's OPEB Advisory Committee was comprised of very well respected individuals, including a local business owner, attorney and two CPA's. The committee worked over the course of 12 months, holding twenty-five (25) public meetings and spent hundreds of hours in the compilation of their report. The report is honest, fair and shares our future liability toward OPEB costs between the Town, retirees, current and future employees.  I am supportive of recommendations that include the establishment of a permanent OPEB committee, and we need to ensure that we protect the "most vulnerable" of our retired municipal and school employees. The report also points to the need for change at the State level. The Town, including AEA, needs to ensure that our legislative delegation works toward that end. There is no easy answer, but the committee's report has put us on a path to resolve this issue and minimize the impact to the future generation of Andover residents.

5.    Teachers are not part of the Town Retirement plan. We fund our retirement system and do not pay into social security which means the Town pays no FICA for us. All other members of the AEA are in the Town pension system. Do you have any ideas about working to help solve the Town's OPEB costs?

The cost of health insurance continues to rise at a rate that is not sustainable. The School District has made great strides by negotiating a contract that requires newly hired teachers to contribute more to their health insurance. I am also interested in learning more about the “Spanos Bill”, which seeks to shift the burden of escalating costs away from the most vulnerable, our retired employees living on a fixed income. We need to continue to work together to find opportunities to reduce the escalating expenses associated with health care.

The problem of escalating health care costs is not isolated to public employees. As a business owner and as a Warden at Christ Church, I have seen firsthand the impact of escalating health care costs on budgets which are already tight. In the end, the Town of Andover has three areas in which we can look to increase revenues: 1. State Aid, 2. Taxes, and 3. New Growth. Andover needs to continue to look for opportunities to increase our revenues without shifting all of the burdens to our taxpayers, and State aid is not something we can easily control. We must look to smart, reasonable new growth, combined with responsible spending to put our Town in a better financial position.

6.    Why should the AEA consider your candidacy?

My campaign is based on the following promises: I will listen first, work hard to find consensus, and I will address others with respect, even when we disagree.

I have been employed as a Town Planner, Land Planner and Landscape Architect over the course of my thirty year career. In 1999, I started Huntress Associates, Inc.. We are a full service design, planning and engineering firm specializing in campus and recreation related projects. Our clients include private entities, municipalities, colleges, public and private secondary schools. Through my work, I am often charged with bringing large group together to find consensus. My expertise in large scale municipal construction projects will also bring a valuable resource to the board.

Finally, Diane and I decided twenty-two years ago that we would make Andover our home. Our family has benefited from a strong school system and dedicated teachers at South, West Middle and AHS. I feel strongly that being part of a community is not a spectator sport, and that you have to jump in and give back as you are able.  Thank you for your consideration, and I respectfully ask for your support on March 27th. 

Committee to Elect Christian Huntress
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