In a grand gesture to cash-strapped taxpayers, Selectman Dan Kowalski last week threw down a challenge to his fellow board members and the town’s leadership, calling for a $1 million tax cut that could trim up to $70 from the average property tax bill.
He proposed using $1 million in so-called “free cash” that has been earmarked by Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski to offset the high cost of retirement benefits.
“Let’s give the taxpayers a break,” Kowalski said. “Free cash is made up of taxes we have charged our residents, but haven’t spent. Instead of taxing up to the levy, let’s consider taking that $1 million and using it to offset the tax levy and give taxpayers a one-year break.”
Kowalski said he’s been hearing from residents that their taxes are too high. One reason is that the initial payments on the Bancroft Elementary School override just hit the latest round of tax bills. People are seeing their taxes go up by $300 or more, he said.
“This should be a priority,” he said.
The town manager replied that free cash is made up of a myriad of sources, not just tax dollars, and that it is funded primarily by town departments, leaving the School Department out of the equation.
“The School Department has to be a player in this,” he said. “They have to generate free cash.”
The tax levy is the amount the town raises each year in property taxes. By law, it can only increase 2.5 percent a year. However, if the residents of a city or town vote to approve paying for a project like the $50 million Bancroft School, taxes can go up beyond 2.5 percent, as they did this year in Andover.
Bob Pokress, of 3 Cherrywood Circle, asked Stapczynski why the town taxes up to the levy limit almost every year.