The $83 the “average” Andover taxpayer would see added to their tax bill if a special town meeting approves up to $19 million for budget overruns at the West Elementary School and Shawsheen Preschool construction project is based on the average assessed single-family value of $759,453, Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said Friday.
Those average taxpayers are currently paying $11,088 in annual property taxes, and an approval at the Dec. 1 special town meeting would raise their bills 0.75 percent to $11,171, assuming the town seeks approval to borrow the full $19 million. But taxpayers with more expensive homes would pay significantly more than an additional $83. You can check your property’s assessed value online. Assessed home values are generally lower than estimated home values found on popular real estate prices.
The select board is expected to sign the two-article warrant for the special town meeting when it meets Monday. The second article would, if approved, move $463,731 left over from the $1.2 million town meeting approved in 2018 to fund the West Elementary School Feasibility Study to help defray some of the costs.
Final Number Is A Moving Target
Officials are still working out the details and trying to determine how much they will ask special town meeting to approve. Flanagan said the $83 average would go up or down approximately $4.30 for every $1 million above or below the $19 million. The original funding for the $151.6 million project added about $400 to the average Andover taxpayer’s annual bill.
That number could be finalized as soon as Wednesday during a “quad-board meeting,” which includes the select board, school committee, finance committee and West Elementary school building committee. The quad-board meeting is scheduled 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall Library (2 North Main Street).
The measure will need a two-thirds majority vote to pass special town meeting. Even then, however, the final bill would be dictated by the municipal bond market. Flanagan based his calculations on the town securing a 3.5 percent interest rate over 30 years.
A “2.5% [interest rate] results in an impact of $73-74 dollars while 4.5% results in an impact of $93-94 dollars,” Flanagan said in an email “We are AAA rated, so I am hopeful that will be helpful in the current interest rate environment. That said, I expect that the actual interest rate will be at least 3.5%.”
Flanagan said he is preparing a presentation for Wednesday’s meeting that would outline different scenarios base on potential interest rates.
Few Options If Special Town Meeting Vote Fails
The project will likely have to be put on hold if Andover Special Town Meeting does not approve the funding. Bids for municipal building projects across Massachusetts have been coming in over budget because of inflation and global supply chain issues.
“If the vote were to fail, we really do not have very good options at that point,” West Elementary School Building Committee Chair Joel Blumstein told the Andover Finance Committee last month. Blumstein said the committee would likely have to wait until the next town meeting to ask for the money again, delaying the project and its anticipated opening at the start of the 2024-25 school year.
Bids for the $151.6 million project came in about 14 percent over budget because of inflation and global supply chain issues. The budget deficit is similar to deficits for other school building projects in Massachusetts.
The building committee closed an earlier, $5.5 million budget deficit, primarily by scaling back some of the project’s features. But Andover School Committee Chair Susan McCready said further cutbacks are not possible to close the larger deficit.
“Having reviewed the options for completing this project, Special Town Meeting is the option that allows the community to have a voice in next steps,” McCready said in a news release. “Further reductions to project scope will impact the educational plan for the project. Our community deserves to fully understand impacts and act on that at a Special Town Meeting.”