Andover Special Town meeting will consider two articles on Thursday, Dec. 1 to close the budget overrun at the West Elementary School and Shawsheen Preschool construction project. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Collins Center at Andover High School.

This cheat sheet has everything you need to know about the special town meeting, including background information and details on how to participate, including information on registration, child care during town meeting and parking.

Read more about the West El project and budget overruns.

What’s At Stake

Andover will ask special town meeting to approve up to $17.1 million in new borrowing and to transfer $463,731 left over from the $1.2 million town meeting approved in 2018 to fund the West Elementary School Feasibility Study to fill the budget shortfall, which is attributed to higher inflation and global supply chain issues. 

The town is tapping $1.4 million in free cash to offset some of the budget overruns. As of Wednesday afternoon, the actual number for the borrowing will be $14.5 million, according to Town Manager Andrew Flanagan.

How much will it cost? If approved at the current $14.5 million estimate, the borrowing would add approximately $63 to the average Andover taxpayer’s annual bill, based on an average assessed single-family value of $759,453. Those taxpayers are already paying an estimated $471 per year over 30 years for the original project cost and have a total annual local property tax bill of $11,088.

The actual impact to taxpayers could range from $65 to $83 for the average taxpayer, based on different interest rates when the town completes the borrowing.

Special town meeting’s vote is final: Unlike other borrowings, there will be no special election following special town meeting for final approval. The state is allowing Andover to forgo the special election after showing all the budget overruns were caused by inflation and supply chain issues.

Pros and Cons

Read more about the West El project and budget overruns.

Why you should consider voting yes: The select boardschool committee, finance committee and West Elementary School building committee all unanimously recommended approving the two articles on the Dec. 1 warrant.

If special town meeting does not approve the two articles on the Dec. 1 warrant, the project will likely be delayed, and the town could face additional delay charges. The new school is scheduled to open at the start of the 2024-25 school year.

Why you should consider voting no: While there is no organized opposition to the two articles on the special town meeting warrant, members of the finance committee did raise concerns before unanimously voting town meeting approve the two articles.

Last month, members of the finance committee raised concerns about the warrant articles, including worries about borrowing during the current period of high interest rates and concerns about the project’s management.

Why the town didn’t make cuts to close the budget deficit: Over the summer, the building committee closed a $5.5 million budget deficit by scaling back certain elements of the project and tapping into the project’s $9.5 million construction contingency fund. The project was originally budgeted at $151.6 million project, including $119.2 million in actual construction costs.

Since then, the West El building committee considered but chose not to recommend several changes that would have brought the budget deficit down an additional $5.9 million, or $25.50 per year for the average Andover taxpayer. Those changes would have included:

  • eliminating a greenhouse to save $98,7171
  • forgoing gym partitions to save $571,070
  • holding off on purchasing $223,07 in gym equipment
  • eliminating $2.6 million in site improvements and landscaping
  • skipping the installation of a $1.7 million turf field
  • delaying the purchase of $466,695 in athletic field equipment
  • forgoing window treatments to save $229,468

“We decided not to recommend these because they would either significantly cut down the scope of the project, have an impact on education or simply be things we’d have to fund some other way through a different funding mechanism,” Committee Chair Joel Blumstein said at the building committee’s virtual meeting last week.

The Nuts and Bolts: Participating In Special Town Meeting

To participate in special town meeting, you need to have registered to vote no later than Nov. 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 Andover Recreation Division will offer babysitting for kids in grades K-5 whose parents want to attend special town meeting. Online preregistration is required and needs to be completed by Tuesday.

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.

Useful Links:

Remaining Information Sessions

The town has been holding information sessions leading up to special town meeting. The remaining sessions are listed in the table below:

Monday, Nov. 288:00 AMVirtualWebex*To register
Monday, Nov. 2812:00 PMVirtualWebex*To register
Monday, Nov. 287:00 PMIn PersonWest Elementary School58 Beacon Street

Read more about the West El project and budget overruns.

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