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Andover school committee members and Town officials suggested they may need to get voters to approve a Proposition 2 1/2 override as a longer-term solution to close a budget deficit by raising property taxes.

“Either you just have a warrant article or set of articles that figures out how to fund the budget that’s already been approved, or you have some different budget where you either lower the number or you have a contingent override,” Town Counsel Doug Heim told the school committee during a more than four-hour-long budget hearing Thursday. “But ultimately that’s what you have to decide.”

The issue was scheduled to be discussed further Tuesday during a joint meeting of the select board and school and finance committees. Officials are eyeing June 18 for a special town meeting to balance the budget before officials begin setting fiscal year 2025 tax rates in mid-September. The decision on whether to place an override question on the ballot would be made by the select board.

“We have a little bit more time, but not much. So we have an approved budget, but we have a budget that’s out of balance,” Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said. “So we have a requirement to balance the budget by the time we start the tax rate setting process.”

State law prohibits towns from raising property taxes by more than 2.5 percent annually. The Town would essentially be asking voters in a special election to hike taxes beyond that limit to balance the Andover Public Schools budget. Last month annual town meeting approved raising the district’s budget by $1.9 million in an effort to save more than 30 positions that were slated for elimination.

Officials have been pressured to reconsider the budget to look for ways to stave off the job cuts or to use free cash to balance the budget this year and prevent the job eliminations. Those options could buy the town more time to consider a Prop 2 1/2 ovveride, but many town officials have suggested the proposed solutions could create additional problems.

“I worry about depleting [free cash]. I think it puts us in a really risky position if we have another microburst and another gas explosion situation, God forbid,” School Committee Chair Lauren Conoscenti said. “So I think if we are using free cash for salaries in FY 25, again, I think that puts us in a really difficult position. I think for me, that’s an untenable position.”

The committee concluded the meeting by voting 4-1 to not use free cash for reoccurring expenses, like salaries, with Shauna Murray casting the dissenting vote.

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