The following letter to the editor was submitted by Andover resident Bonnie Zahorik. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andover News. You can learn more about our policy on opinion and commentary on our Mission and Policies page.
Residents deserve to see a completed design for a new AHS to understand its full benefit and eventually vote on whether to build a new school with full knowledge of both the costs and the benefits it will bring. I’m voting yes on 7A.
People are drawn to Andover for the public schools. We moved to Andover for the schools after living in North Andover for 4 years. We knew the mortgage (and taxes) would be higher. We stretched and moved to a neighborhood where our kids would attend the new High Plain Elementary School.
But what about the bond rating? In my 22 years living here, I’ve never heard anyone ask what our bond rating was. Yet, to hear our Finance Committee and some other residents talk, preserving our AAA rating is a singular goal. A town’s bond rating impacts the rate at which the town can borrow money for capital projects. Recent analysis by the Town Manager predicts that a reduction from a AAA to a AA+ bond rating would result in our borrowing rate increasing 0.25%, but this is small compared to the impact of market forces. There’s also a lot of subjectivity involved. Rating agencies responded positively when we took the responsible step of financing our future pension obligations when interest rates were low. Not all debt is bad debt.
Even if we do drop to AA+ and incur a 0.25% borrowing premium, it is more fiscally responsible to borrow now than sit back while construction costs continue to escalate (an average 7.5% over the past 7 years). When liaison to the AHS Feasibility Study Committee when on the Finance Committee, rough estimates in 2018 for a new AHS seemed shockingly high, but were half of the projected rough cost today. If we wait 10 years to start the project (completion 2038 vs. 2028), the cost would grow to $821 million (and that’s using only a 5.5% increase in costs!).
Preserving our bond rating should not be pursued at all costs, including foregoing important investments that benefit the community. It is just one factor in the cost/benefit of a school investment. Let’s approve the $1.3 million to complete the design of the new high school so people can then vote on building a new AHS with full knowledge, not an incomplete picture. Those of us with older kids owe it to those with younger kids who moved here for the schools. This is what COMMUNITY is all about.
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