An Andover Finance Committee member questioned whether building a new high school would impact the Town’s ability to attract new businesses.

“Residents bear the pain of the tax increase, but have the benefit of the high school,” Andy McBrien said at last week’s committee meeting. “Businesses bear the pain of the tax increase, but get no benefit.”

The committee discussed potential financial models they would like performed with Andover Chief Financial Officer Patrick Lawlor. The Town is looking for ways to pay for a $480.9 million school without state funding that would cost the average Andover homeowner as much as $66,410, or $2,215 per year, over 30 years. The project could also lower the Town’s bond rating, making future borrowings more expensive, and push the Town over a state-mandated debt limit for municipalities, although officials are optimistic the state legislature will fix the problem.

McBrien’s concerns were just one of many finance committee members raised as they made requests for financial models under different funding scenarios for the high school project. If the proposal goes before Town Meeting, the committee would have to make a recommendation on whether Andover should fund the school.

Andover has the 19th highest commercial tax rate of 351 Massachusetts communities. The Town set a commercial and industrial tax rate of 27.32 per $1,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1, higher than all but one of seven nearby communities:

North Andover12.3417.2517.25
North Reading13.9913.9913.99
Source: Massachusetts Division of Local Services

Other issues raised at the meeting:

  • The limited chance Andover would get MSBA funding any time soon had several members saying the state needed to address the lack of available funding for school projects. “Nobody has a crystal ball of when or if MSBA would accept Andover into the program,” Lawlor said.
  • MacKay noted Atlanta had just opened an $85 million school for 2,200 students. “There’s clearly something horribly, horribly wrong in the state when a metro area similar to Boston can build a school for a fifth of what we’re looking at,” he said.
  • Several finance committee members if the Town should proceed with a $1.3 million schematic design before knowing whether the Town can finance a new school. While the schematic design could lower the preliminary cost, it’s unlikely to be enough to address the other concerns. “Why would we spend the $1.3 million if we’re not going to spend the $500 million?” Paul MacKay said.

The select board also made requests for financial models earlier this month. The models will clear up some of the uncertainties as the Town considers what is shaping up to be a divisive issue.

“With the modeling, and seeing hard dollars projected out, people can look at it and say ‘Oh my gosh, that’s too much money to spend now’,” Kim Perry said. “But maybe in five years, ‘Hey, let’s do it then.’ Or maybe we flip to the alternative.”

Share Your Thoughts!

Discover more from Andover News

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading