Special town meeting sided with the select board, finance committee and school committee in rejecting an Andover Public Schools budget that would have taken $1.6 million from the Town’s rainy day fund, or free cash.

Article 1 on Tuesday’s warrant would have used $1.6 million in free cash and an estimated $283,000 in additional state education aide to close a budget gap and, some supporters had hoped, allow the school committee to rehire 36 employees who had been laid off for the 2024-25 school year. Free cash is generally not used for reoccurring expenses like salaries but for one-time expenses like clean up from last September’s microburst.

The school committee had already said it would not use the free cash to save the positions that are being cut. APS says the reductions reflect declining enrollment over the past 10 years. On May 23, the school board voted to only use any additional funds for one-time expenses. The select board, school committee and finance committee all recommended special town meeting not approve article 1.’

“No action by town meeting can…force [the school department] to expend the funds,” Select Board Chair Laura Gregory said in introducing article 1.

With the beefier budget shot down, Andover’s legislative body approved article 2, which effectively restored the original $102.8 million school budget before it was amended at annual town meeting in April. Backers of article 1 said the move undermined what voters had signaled they wanted at annual town meeting.

Article 2 amends the original APS operating budget to $102.8 million, reflecting an anticipated $283,000 in additional state aide — effectively putting the original school department budget prior to April’s amendments back in place.

“Five months ago you people sat up here and beat us to death over a new $500 million school. There was no talk of declining enrollment,” resident Mike Meyers said. “It was a must have. Now there’s not enough to cover a $1.6 million budget deficit.”

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