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The Andover Annual Town Meeting that opened Monday may be the Town’s last where the moderator won’t have the option of using electronic voting a change which town officials estimate could cut the length of Town Meetings by as much as 20 percent.
It was one of only a handful of the articles considered in the opening session of Andover’s legislature. The 377 registered voters who attended made their way through 19 of the 41 articles over three hours Monday. A complete list of results is at the bottom of this post. Annual Town Meeting continues at the Collins Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
By approving Articles 13 and 14, Andover joined more than 70 other Massachusetts communities that already use electronic voting. The approvals include spending $40,000 to lease the equipment in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Town Meeting had twice rejected similar proposals in the past over privacy concerns. When Andover first began looking at the issue in 2017, 21 Massachusetts towns were using electronic voting at town meeting with the same system the Town plans to use. That number has grown to more than 70.
Town Meeting rejected a motion to amend article 13 to make the votes of elected and appointed Town officials public.
Town Can Use Excess Levy Capacity For Capital Projects
Andover will be able to use excess levy capacity created when it approved pension obligation bonds in 2021 to borrow money for capital projects after a motion to amend Article 7 fell short Monday.
The Town will now ask the state legislature to let it use excess levy capacity “solely for the purposes of paying pension obligation bond service, funding post-employment benefits liabilities, and funding capital projects.”
Kevin Coffey, who ran for select board in the March town election, moved to amend Article 7 so excess levy capacity could only be used for paying down pension obligation bonds Town Meeting approved in 2021. Coffey said the excess levy capacity would not exist if Town Meeting had not approved those bonds, so the excess levy capacity should only be used for paying them down.
Opponents of the amendment raised fears the town’s bond rating would go down if the new measure was not passed. Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said without passing Article 7, the Town could use the excess levy capacity for any purpose.
Town Manager Andrew Flanagan called Article 7 “sound fiscal policy” and stressed Town Meeting would have final say on future capital project expenditures.
“An important point is any use of excess levy capacity has to come back here,” Flanagan said.
Town Meeting approved Article 12, giving $20.1 million in property tax breaks over the next 20 years to a pharmaceutical company that said it will bring 600 new jobs to the vacant Phillips Healthcare campus on Minuteman Road.
The Town will now enter a tax increment financing agreement, or TIF, with Cambridge-based Flagship Pioneering. In a TIF agreement, a local government offers tax breaks to a commercial property owner under the premise capital improvements will lead to a higher property value and, in turn, higher property tax revenue for the town.
The town currently collects about $1.4 million in commercial property taxes from the property each year. Under the TIF agreement, Andover will give incremental property tax relief of 70 percent per year during the 20-year agreement. Flagship said it will invest $325 million to build out lab, office and manufacturing space over the next 10 years. Flagship would receive no more than $20.1 million in total tax relief over the life of the deal, or six percent of its planned investment.
In its first major order of business Monday, Andover’s Annual Town Meeting approved Article 4, the $223.8 million operating budget submitted by Flanagan.
The largest portion of the budget — $98.7 million — goes to Andover Public Schools, up 3.8 percent from the current year. That portion of the budget was the only area where Town Meeting members asked questions.
The overall operating budget is up 4.8 percent from $213.6 million in the fiscal year ending June 30. The budget keeps Town services level across all departments. Separately, Town Meeting approved Article 5, a $2.9 million capital projects budget.
Annual Town Meeting continues at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, if necessary, at the Collins Center until all 41 articles on the 2023 warrant have been addressed.
Be sure to check out our Annual Town Meeting Cheat Sheet, which has everything you need to know about Town Meeting 2023, including background information, explainers on key warrant articles, details on how to participate, and information on registration, parking and child care.
More coverage of the 2023 Annual Town on Andover News.
|1||Annual Town Election||Passed|
|2||Election Not Required by Ballot||Passed|
|3||Salaries of Elected Officials||Passed|
|4||Fiscal 2024 Budget||Passed|
|5||FY2024 Capital Projects Fund||Passed|
|6||Financial Housekeeping Articles||Passed|
|7||Excess Levy Capacity||Passed|
|8||Minor Financial Articles||Passed|
|9||General Housekeeping Articles||Passed|
|10||Water Treatment Plant Maintenance||Passed|
|11||Sewer Collection System Maintenance||Passed|
|12||Tax Increment Financing Agreement||Passed|
|16||Chapter 90 Authorizations||Passed|
|18||Stabilization Fund Bond Premium||Passed|
|19||Capital Projects from General Fund Borrowing (Amended)||Passed|
|20||Capital Projects from Free Cash|
|21||Capital Projects from Water and Sewer Enterprise Funds|
|22||Enterprise Fund for Chandler Road Recreation Area|
|23||Jerry Silverman Fireworks|
|24||Foster Care Transportation|
|25||Ledge Road Landfill|
|26||Ledge Road Landfill|
|27||Active Transportation Plan (Uber/Lyft surcharges)|
|28||Andover Sustainability Resolution|
|30||Bancroft Electricity Purchase Agreements|
|31||Bancroft Solar Facilities|
|32||West El Electricity Purchase Agreements|
|33||West El Solar Facilities|
|34||Order of Warrant Articles|
|35||Zoning By-law Update|
|36||Stormwater Management and Erosion Control By-law Amendment|
|37||Town Manager Residency Requirement|
|38||Use Variances By-law Amendment|
|39||Hacienda Way/Eminent Domain|
|41||Lewis Street/Eminent Domain|
To participate in Annual Town Meeting, you needed to register to vote no later than April 21. Non-voters can attend and will be seated in a special section. The town urges voters and nonvoters to arrive early to sign in at the Town Clerk’s Table.
Childcare: The Town offers babysitting for kids in grades K-5 whose parents want to attend Annual Town Meeting. Call Andover Recreation at 978-623-8340 for more information.
Parking: Attendees should park in the Collins Center Lot, the main lot at the high school, the West Middle school lot, the lot beside the field house or on Red Spring Road.
Transportation: Andover Elder Services will be offering transportation and parking lot shuttle. Call 978-623-8320 for more info.
- Annual Town Meeting info on Town of Andover Website
- 2023 Annual Town Meeting Warrant
- Information on Andover Moderator Sheila M. Doherty
- Town Meeting FAQs
- Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Citizen’s Guide to Town Meetings