A presentation of Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski’s five-year capital improvement plan this week transitioned into a discussion of taxation and morals, as officials questioned how a number of large projects will be paid for by the town in the coming years.
Stapczynski’s capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2014-18 was presented to the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Finance Committee on Monday. The plan, spread out over five years, represents nearly $17 million in spending on town projects, land purchases and more.
Seven funding proposals among the full list of 38 exceed $1 million. The largest among them is $3.2 million requested to fund the town’s “School Site Improvement Plan,” which will replace paved areas around Doherty Middle School in the coming year.
Other projects in the plan include: $2 million in conservation land purchases, $600,000 for a school facility space needs study, $400,000 to replacing the Andover High School tennis courts, $1.3 million for major annual road maintenance and just over $1 million for school capital projects.
As the presentation moved forward, however, discussion of how the town will pay for the projects dominated the meeting. Central to the discussion was whether to pay for the projects with non-exempt debt or with exempt debt. Using non-exempt would mean using existing revenue or borrowing money within current taxation levels. Paying with exempt debt would involve borrowing money by raising taxes above Proposition 21/2 taxation limits.
“You can spend as much on non-exempt and it isn’t going to raise anyone’s taxes. It’s just going to take away services,” Finance Committee member Peggy Kruse said. “The exempt debt raises taxes and doesn’t change what’s available for town departments.”
Among the funding proposals outlined in the plan, $2.3 million would be used from the town’s general fund revenues. $9.7 million would be borrowed in non-exempt fashion, and $1.5 million would be borrowed using exempt debt.