Two Select Board members were not shy about expressing their displeasure with a fellow selectman who went public with his opposition to a proposed property tax increase.
At a recent meeting, Laura Gregory and Dan Koh spoke out against Alex Vispoli, who on May 7 wrote a letter to The Andover Townsman voicing his opposition to a property tax increase in an amount higher than he said the board previously committed to.
In the letter, titled "Select Board should honor the tax commitment it made last summer," Vispoli said last June in a 4-1 vote, board members agreed not to increase taxes by more than 3.6% this year.
However, on March 22 the board approved a version of Town Manager Andrew Flanagan's 2021 fiscal year budget with a proposed 4.6% increase.
Flanagan said that the tax hike had nothing to do with the pandemic because "the increase is based on last year and the limitations of Proposition 2.5."
Rather, the proposed increase would be used to pay for the town's unfunded liabilities, specifically, the pension fund.
“I appeal to the Town Manager and the other four members (who voted in favor of the larger tax increase) to honor the board’s vote last summer to protect the taxpayer with the lower property tax increase,” Vispoli wrote.
“Especially in this time of financial and employment uncertainty," he continued, "residents and businesses should have confidence that their elected officials will keep their promises.”
At the start of the Monday, May 18, meeting, Gregory, who chairs the board, said she took issue with Vispoli’s letter.
“I was disappointed to read Selectman Vispoli’s letter to The Townsman regarding the pre-COVID19 proposed FY 2021 budget. The letter stated, or at least implied, that four members of the board who voted to recommend approval of the proposed budget did not comply with the Select Board’s goal set for the town manager back in July. This is incorrect,” she said.
Gregory said that the budget goal of a 3.6% percent cap allowed for an increase in order to pay for the town's unfunded liabilities, or debts that the town doesn’t have sufficient funds to pay.
This increase, Gregory said, is simply a “responsible step.”
Koh also took umbrage with Vispoli.
“I respectfully believe that your letter, Mr. Vispoli, was a gross oversimplification of what was discussed about the tax rate,” he said.
“The reality is that when you see the way that was portrayed in that letter to the editor, people would get concerned that their tax bill is going up and it’s going to cost them a lot of money. But the reality is, the finances of the town of Andover are incredibly complicated and to try to oversimplify it in a way that looks good for one’s own personal agenda, the reality is, it’s not as simple as you put in that letter.”