The Massachusetts legislature approved a $56.2 billion state budget Monday that includes an amendment allowing Andover and other communities to exempt borrowing for school construction projects from a state-mandated debt cap.
Andover officials lobbied the Town’s legislative contingent to help push the bill. The amendment comes as the Andover High School Building Committee looks for ways to trim the costs of and find ways to pay for a proposed new school that had a preliminary price tag of $480.9 million.
Gov. Maura Healey has 10 days to review the budget. She is expected to sign the spending plan.
The project still faces hurdles. The building committee opted to move forward without aid from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, and Town Manager Andrew Flanagan has warned the borrowing would likely raise the cost of future borrowings by lowering the Town’s bond rating. The committee would also have to gain approval from Andover voters, who would see a 20 percent or more property tax hike.
At the current, preliminary price tag, a new high school would cost the average Andover homeowner as much as $66,410, or $2,215 per year, over 30 years. Waiting for state aid to build a new Andover High School could raise the cost for taxpayers by as much as 14.3 percent, according to a rough estimate the school building committee reviewed in May.
Officials hope to call a Special Town Meeting later this year to ask for approval to spend $1.3 million for the new school’s schematic design. The committee withdrew a warrant article to ask for the money at Annual Town Meeting in May, as the Town looked for help to finance new capital projects as it neared the state-mandated debt limit eliminated by the state budget approved Monday.
Photo: Dave Copeland/Andover News