Two Massachusetts state representatives who represent Andover co-sponsored an amendment to the state budget that would have given the Town a work-around to its debt limit, which is complicating efforts to move forward with plans to build a new high school.
Town Manager Andrew Flanagan told the select board Tuesday he discussed the Andover’s debt issue with State Reps. Tram Nguyen (D-Andover) and Frank Moran (D-Lawrence). Their amendment was ultimately not included in the House’s final budget bill. Had it passed, money Massachusetts municipalities borrow to build new schools would be exempt from the state-mandated debt limit, even if they move forward without state funding as Andover is hoping to do.
“I discussed all of this with the legislature, and the legislators decided to move forward” with the amendment, Flanagan said. “The mechanism they used was entirely at their discretion.”
The average Andover residential property taxpayer would see their tax bill go up as much as $2,215 over the next 30 years to pay for a new high school if early cost estimates released by the building committee hold up through the schematic design process. The projected tax increases are based on an assessment of $858,952.
The building committee voted to delay requesting $1.3 million for the schematic design at Annual Town Meeting over concerns about the town nearing debt limit. The state prohibits towns from taking on debt greater than five percent of its cash value. The town’s current debt limit is $510.2 million, with approximately $409 million in available debt capacity.
Some types of debt are excluded from the cap — including debt to build new schools in partnership with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The amendment filed by Nguyen and Moran had language that would have specifically excluded debt for projects built without state help through MSBA.
While the amendment is dead for now, it could be reintroduced by State Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover) when the state senate hammers out its version of the budget.