The two candidates running for select board in the Andover town election shared similar views on key issues facing Andover during a candidates’ forum Wednesday, including the impact a state affordable housing law for MBTA communities would have on the town.
But incumbent Laura Gregory and challenger Kevin Coffey had different takes on tax rates and the town’s appeal to business.
More than 30 people attended Wednesday’s Andover/North Andover League of Women Voters’ forum at Memorial Hall Library. The forum was also broadcast on Andover TV and streamed online, with moderator Ellen Hardee of the Westford League of Women Voters taking questions for the candidates from the audience in real time.
Coffey said he was concerned with the increase in commercial tax rates, which have grown to more than double residential tax rates in recent years. At the same time, residential tax rates have increased, including a 5.9 percent hike the select board approved in December.
“People’s taxes are high enough, to the point where it forces seniors out of their home. It contributes to being unaffordable for young families,” Coffey said. “We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”
Gregory, who was first elected to the select board in 2017 and is seeking a third term, said there has not been “a lot of negative feedback from businesses in town” on tax rates, noting that Pfizer and Schneider Electric have both expanded their operations in Andover.
“We’ve got a lot of great things going on in town and I think that we can continue to do it as we have as far as the tax rate goes,” she said. “For the past six years, the average increase in the residential tax bill has been consistent with the 10-year average, and it’s the same as the period from 2010 to 2016. So I think we’re in a pretty good position with regard to that.”
The forum also heard from candidates for the Punchard School Trustees, which oversees a scholarship fund, moderator and school committee member Lauren Conoscenti, who is running unopposed for a second term. Keith Saxon, who is running for moderator, was ill and did not participate in Wednesday’s forum.
The candidates have also been invited to participate in a forum hosted by the Service Club of Andover on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
Video of LOWV Candidates’ Forum From Andover TV
0:00:00 – Introduction
0:04:48 – School Committee
0:13:41 – Punchard Free School
0:32:46 – Moderator
0:42:25 – Select Board