Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 12, 2013

Tax increases cause for frustration

The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman:

The Nov. 21 Townsman was a good read — that is, if you are at all concerned about your “soon-to-arrive” town tax bill. It is good to know that Proposition 2 1/2 is alive and well in Andover. It appears that your taxes will only be going up about 4.6 percent. How does that happen? Good question and the answer is that you voted for it at the last — and previous — Annual Town Meetings. If you were not there to vote, that’s no excuse; your neighbors helped you out and did it for you.

The mechanism that all too few seem to understand that allows this is in those seemingly innocuous votes for items that are presented as “debt exclusions.” It almost sounds like we will not have to pay — kind of like the present thinking of the administration in Washington. Apparently, there is still some down there who believe we can borrow our way out of debt. I don’t think so, but they do and they have those special printing presses to assist them. We do not have the ability to print dollar bills on Bartlet Street — Andover Town Hall.

Debt exclusion does not mean we don’t pay; it simply means that the payment — from your taxes — does not come under the 2 1/2 percent threshold that is supposed to be the annual legal increase limit. Sorry if that’s news.

We were told that the plans under way for the high school expansion, redevelopment of the Ballardvale fire station and the “whatever we are to do” plans for the Town Yard are to cost about $9 million. That figure comes with a caveat, however; “two projects don’t have price tags yet.” To add to the equation, we have one ongoing project (Bancroft School) that will hopefully come in on time and on budget. Could happen, but less than an even money bet in my book.

Then we have the youth center — to have been built with private funds. Didn’t quite happen that way. The town is into that project already for almost $3 million (actually $2.7 million, I think). And it hasn’t yet been started to be built. The project has been stripped of “bells and whistles” to make it more affordable and, of course, there is no mention of cost of maintenance. One million dollars would have provided more than 3,000 annual memberships to the new, enlarged YMCA under construction just down the street. Do the math — $2.7 million.

Start reading, thinking and go to meetings where these subjects are discussed; it is your tax dollars being spent. It’s the only way you can have a say in how that happens. Think I’m frustrated? You bet, and there is still “term limits” to think about — another subject, another time.

Cel Perry

Timothy Drive