Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan is proposing a 3.61% budget increase for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Flanagan submitted a $234.8 million draft budget, which includes $8.1 million in new spending, to the select board on Thursday. The board will begin deliberations on the budget leading up to final approval by Town Meeting in May.
The select board approved a 5.9 percent tax increase in December. Flanagan’s proposal puts that increase at 5.7 percent. Under the lower figure, which is above Andover’s 10-year average of 3.6 percent property tax increases, the average Andover single family tax bill would be $11,706, up from $11,075 this year. The average bills are based on an assessment of $858,952.
Property taxes make up 78.4 percent of the town’s projected revenue in the draft budget.
Among the key items in Flanagan’s proposed spending plan:
- A 9.3 increase in the amount Andover spends to pay off debt for capital projects, like construction of the Bancroft and West Elementary Schools.
- A 3.78 increase for Andover Public Schools, bringing the district’s spending to $98.7 million.
- Staffing increases for both the Andover Police Department and Andover Fire and rescue.
The select board, school committee and finance committee will make recommendations on the budget before it goes to Town Meeting for final approval.
Town Starts Paying For West El
Some of the biggest year-over-year increases by percentage were for the amount Andover uses to pay off debt from bonds used to fund bigger projects, including new schools. If Flanagan’s budget is approved, $25.5 million would be spent on repaying the bonds and interest in the year beginning July 1, up 9.3 percent from this year.
At $11.3 million in Flanagan’s proposal, excluded debt will account for 5.9 percent of the $184 million Andover expects to collect in property taxes next year. So-called excluded debt allows the town to increase property taxes above the state mandated 2.5 percent cap on total property tax increases.
Schools Budget Gets 3.8 Percent Increase
Flanagan proposed allotting $98.7 million for the Andover Public Schools budget, slightly below the preliminary estimate of $99.6 million.
Earlier this month, the Andover School Committee heard budget presentations from principals and department heads for Superintendent Magda Parvey’s preliminary budget recommendation. Parvey’s plan includes shifting positions to offer more instructional coaching during the 2023-24 school year.
In addition to the local funding, the district expects $12.5 million in state aid, up from $12.2 million this year.
Police, Fire Getting Additional Personnel
The proposed budget also adds $331,158 to Andover Fire Rescue’s budget. The budget would add a third ambulance with two employees to each Andover Fire Rescue shift, bringing the number of employees to 18 from the current staffing of 16. The budget would also raise the number of administrators per shift to 5 from 4 by adding a fire training lieutenant.
“Andover Fire Rescue has not received an increase in firefighting personnel since 2000, at which point three firefighters were added to the department. Since then, calls for emergency medical calls have increased by 45%, or approximately 1,240 calls per year,” the proposal said. “The cost of additional department personnel will be completely offset by revenues generated from the increase in ambulance billing fees and the reduction in ladder aide overtime line item.”
Like the fire department, Andover police have not seen an increase in patrol officers in nearly two decades. The budget would also create a two-person Andover Police Traffic Unit and add a detective for drug enforcement.
The town eliminated five full-time positions in other departments to defer some of the $378,134 increase in the police budget.
“Much like Andover Fire Rescue, the increase in population and residential and commercial growth have resulted in an increase (sic) demand for [police] services,” the draft said.