The West Elementary School and Shawsheen Preschool construction project will likely have to be put on hold if Andover Special Town Meeting does not approve as much as $19 million to pay for higher-than-expected budget costs on Nov. 30.
“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 Tuesday night. 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 select board opened the warrant for the special town meeting on Monday. The warrant for the meeting closes at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The exact amount special town meeting will be asked to approve is still being determined, but Blumstein said his committee wants to make sure it did not ask for more than it needed while still asking for enough to make sure it did not have to come back again to ask for more money later.
At Monday’s select board meeting, Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said borrowing the full $19 million would add $83 to the “average” Andover property taxpayer’s bill for 30 years. That number would go down $4.30 for every $1 million under the $19 million borrowed. The original funding for the project added “approximately $400” to the average Andover taxpayer’s annual bill, Flanagan said.
The measure will need a two-thirds majority vote to pass special town meeting. Blumstein said officials would need to do “extensive public outreach” in the next two months to make sure voters understand the issue. That effort started Wednesday, when Andover Public Schools issued a news release about the Nov. 30 special town meeting.
“I know the commitment and care the School Committee and West Elementary and Shawsheen Building Committee have taken to support the educational opportunities of our students,” Superintendent Magda Parvey said in the news release. “The completion of this project will benefit all students in the district and is an important step to enhancing the quality education our community deserves.”
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 the 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.”
Photo/Artist Rendering: Andover Public School
Andover Public Schools News Release On Special Town Meeting For West Elementary School