The Andover Select Board opened a special town meeting warrant aimed at filling a $19 million budget deficit in the West Elementary School building project.
The select board approved holding the special town meeting on Nov. 30 at Doherty Middle School with a 4-0 vote. Christian Huntress did not attend Monday’s meeting. The warrant closes at 4:30 p.m. Friday, giving groups and citizens who want to petition for additional warrant articles a short window to collect signatures.
The exact amount special town meeting will be asked to approve is still being determined, West Elementary School Building Chair Joel Blumstein said. Blumstein (right in photo) said his committee wanted to make sure it did not ask for more than it needed, while asking for enough to make sure it did not have to come back again to ask for more money.
“Whatever number is finalized, if it’s authorized by town meeting, it doesn’t necessarily mean all of that money will be borrowed,” Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. “If it’s not needed, it won’t be borrowed. And if [the funds] are borrowed and not needed, they can be reauthorized and released to free cash at a later time.”
Potential Impact On Taxpayers and Next Steps
The cost overruns are estimated at 14 percent above the $151.6 million total budget and are attributed to global supply chain and inflation issues. The request comes at the same time the Andover High School Building Committee looks to renovate or rebuild the school without state funding.
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.
Flanagan said the next steps include scheduling a joint meeting between the select board, finance committee, school committee and building committee to go over the proposed warrant article in more detail and review a finalized amount for the request. That meeting would likely be held during the week of Oct. 17.
Vispoli Wants Final Approval From Voters
Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said he would be seeking approval from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to approve the funding solely with a two-third’s vote at special town meeting. State rules allow towns to avoid bringing the measure to a general election if the deficit of the project is purely caused by economic conditions.
“We are very confident DOR would approve that,” Flanagan said. The select board would still have the option to call for an election approving the measure if it’s approved by special town meeting, which would need to be held before the end of the year.
“I do think we should give it to the voters,” Select Board Chair Alex Vispoli said. “If we do the right outreach to voters, as we have with the other projects we have done, it should not be a problem.”