Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


April 3, 2014

New tax-cut plan in works

Selectmen push to reduce burden on homeowners

Taxpayers may be in for as much as a $1.1 million tax cut if a plan approved by the Board of Selectmen makes it all the way through the budget process and wins Town Meeting support in May.

On Monday night, selectmen voted 4-1, with Brian Major opposed, to implement $500,000 in savings identified by Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski.

That would be in addition to the $600,000 selectmen cut from the town and school budgets last month, for a total cut of $1.1 million.

“This is a sustainable proposal,” said Mary O’Donoghue, sitting in on her first, official meeting as selectman since winning election last week. “It’s a gift to the taxpayers.”

The spending cut proposal could shave as much as $100 off residential tax bills, which have skyrocketed to more than $8,000 on the typical $500,000 house in town.

Selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli pushed for the vote, saying that Stapczynski had recently identified $500,000 in savings due to the lower-than-expected cost of health insurance premiums combined with savings resulting from a switch by retired teachers into the town health insurance plan.

A bump in local aid, along with the $600,000 spending-reduction plan approved by selectmen last month, would lower the tax levy by $1.1 million.

“If you take the savings, and don’t spend it, you are achieving what we want to achieve,” Vispoli said. “The only way to have a sustainable impact on the budget is to reduce spending. This way, we start next year at a lower level. We have the ability to dial down the levy limit. It’s a policy decision, and you’ve got a good news story.”

The plan hinges on one, important detail, however. The School Department has to go along with it.

Under the plan selectmen approved last month, spending would be cut $200,000 on the town side of the ledger and $400,000 on the school side. The intent of the vote was to keep town and school departments from hiring any new employees. The School Department has proposed increasing staff by a total of nine full-time equivalent positions, while town departments are looking to add what amounts to five full-time positions.

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