×

Andover passes $3.6M bond to renovate school



Monitor staff
Monday, March 06, 2017

Voters in Andover approved a $3.6 million bond to renovate the town’s elementary and middle school 200-80 by secret ballot on Monday.

Per state law, the bond was the first item taken up at the school district’s annual meeting, and residents debated the project for about an hour after hearing a half-hour presentation by school board members.

The $3.6 million plan was whittled down from a $5.4 million proposal first suggested by architects hired by the district to assess the building’s needs.

“It is the minimum responsible project from the board,” school board member Dean Barker told the crowd.

The bond is intended to pay a host of safety, energy and space upgrades, including creating an ADA-accessible front entrance, sprinklers throughout the building and creating dedicated space for special services.

Based on current bond rates, the district estimated the annual impact on the tax rate of the project would be, on average, $1.18 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $236 on a $200,000 home.

A majority of voters spoke against the proposal, arguing that the town simply couldn’t afford the additional tax burden, though many said they believed the project itself was a good idea.

“This proposal has been put together by a lot of your folks and you’ve done fine job. You’ve done your homework. ... I wish I could stand up here and tell you I’m in favor of it. I can’t,” one resident, Wood Sutton, told the board and budget committee, adding that 75 people were behind on their property taxes as it was.

“I’m torn,” Kent Armstrong, a resident and former board member, began his public remarks. Armstrong said he believed the upgrades were critical, but that they might also saddle the town with an unsustainable burden.

Peter Maynard, another resident, said he couldn’t afford the current taxes, let alone the increase.

“I can’t afford it. I became disabled from Lyme disease and I can’t afford it,” he said.

A few residents asked how the board would handle the last article on the warrant – a petitioned article that asks to hold off on the renovations and instead conduct a feasibility study about sending middle school students to Merrimack Valley Middle – should both the bond and the petitioned article pass. The board’s attorney, Jim O’Shaughnessy, told the crowd the petitioned article would be only advisory. The article failed on voice vote anyway.

The school district’s proposed $4.98 million budget, up just $79,218 from the current year, passed by voice vote following brief discussion. A three-year deal for support staff also passed by voice vote. Collectively, those two articles added an estimated 36 cents to the tax rate.

In an eleventh-hour motion, resident Brad Hardie proposed amending the budget by an additional $40,000 to make the middle school’s art teacher full time. It passed by voice vote.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)