Building a new Andover High School without assistance from the Massachusetts School Building Authority will raise the project’s cost by nearly 30 percent, according to a detailed analysis by a local government activist.
Mike Meyers, who spent most of his career in public finance and large resort property development, said he spent three months putting together the report, and based the costs on the West Elementary School construction project that is now underway. Meyers estimates the “Campus 2” model with an auditorium to replace the Collins Center the AHS building committee is considering would cost $429.3 million based on 2026 dollars.
If the report’s figures are accurate, the project would raise the average single family property tax bill by $1,768 for the next 30 years. State funding, which the town won’t qualify for until the West El project is closed out, would reduce that average tax bill by $405, or 29.8 percent, per year.
“The Committee needs to pump the brakes and conduct a comprehensive due diligence process before proceeding with spending additional funds,” Meyers said in a cover note when he submitted the report to the building committee, the school committee, the finance committee and the select board Tuesday. “The public needs to be fully informed on the complete financial impact this proposal may have upon their property taxes and future school spending.”
Andover News has asked building committee Chair Mark Johnson and other building committee members — including school committee liaison Lauren M. Conoscenti and town manager Andrew Flanagan — for comment on the Meyers report. This article will be updated when we hear back from them.
The building committee is scheduled to discuss preliminary cost estimates when it meets on March 23. The committee has maintained that waiting for MSBA funding would delay the project by as much as eight years, while acknowledging special town meeting approval without state funding will “not be an easy process.” Under the committee’s current timeline, construction could begin early next year following special town meeting approval in January.
Meyers also says the Campus 2 plan, with a gross floor area of 424,000 feet, exceeds MSBA space design guidelines by 102,000 square feet, adding $113 million to the project. MSBA bases its guidelines on enrollment; Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education projections show AHS enrollment peaked in 2016 and will continue to decline through 2030.
“The Committee needs to immediately commence a facility re-design with a more efficient building that eliminates wasteful space costing in excess of $113 million,” Meyers said.
The building committee has been planning for a school that could accommodate 1,900 students. AHS’s enrollment was 1,667 in 2022.