Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


December 12, 2013

Residents, officials urge tax hike restraint

Finance Committee, public decry town's spending habits


Stapczynski’s CIP would ask voters to approve spending on six more multi-million dollar projects, including a new Ballardvale fire station, a new town yard, renovations to Andover High School, purchase of land along the Merrimack River from Phillips Academy, and purchase of land from Reichhold Chemical for ballfields.

Spending would be phased in over the next few years. The actual cost for the projects hasn’t been set, but even broad estimates show funding for the town manager’s list would exceed $35 million.

Finance Committee Chairman Jon Stumpf said Monday night’s discussion was the first chance his members had to question the town manager’s proposed figures.

“This is the first dialogue we’ve had about the fiscal 2015 budget,” he said. “The Finance Committee is saying, ‘Wait a minute guys, we need to prioritize these exempt-debt borrowing items to be fair to the taxpayers.’”

Stumpf said the biggest concern he has is that taxpayers will be doling out more for debt in 2015 — about $324 on average — than they have in decades. In fact, the debt requirement will be the highest it’s been since 1997, when it was just $190. Last year, debt on big projects was costing taxpayers about $166. Next year, it will almost double, bringing the average taxpayer’s bill to nearly $9,000.

Stapczynski said the CIP is a work in progress, with nothing set in stone until projects are approved by selectmen, Town Meeting and voters at large.

“That list is my vision of what big projects lay ahead,” he said. “When they mature to the point of having real construction numbers, we will take that to Town Meeting and a debt-exemption vote. It could be a year from now or five years from now.”

The town manager said that while debt may seem high, in the past it’s been a higher percentage of the overall budget than it is now.

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