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December 16, 2013

Capital Improvement plan brings call for restraint

Proposal raises concerns about Andover's spending habits

ANDOVER — A Capital Improvement Program that last week resulted in a call for Andover to stem its profligate spending habits and accompanying skyrocketing property taxes goes before the Board of Selectmen for discussion and a possible vote tonight.

Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski’s 2015 to 2019 plan for future projects, known as the Capital Improvement Program, or CIP, is raising concerns that Andover is reaching “unsustainable spending levels,” Finance Committee member Gregory Sarno said at a meeting last week.

Finance Committee member Margaret Kruse joined others in saying they were worried about the impact on taxpayers.

“It’s staggering the amount of tax increases we are getting,” Mike Roli of 2 College Circle said. “People can’t afford this. Maybe some people can, but a lot of us, a lot of seniors, are having difficulty.”

Greg Rigby of 131 Rattlesnake Road said the average tax bill in town has gone up 46 percent over the last 10 years.

“It’s not just seniors who are affected,” he said. “Everybody in town is affected. You have to get control of taxes.”

The tax increase for the Bancroft School project, which cost about $50 million and was paid for partly through a voter-approved debt service override, goes online this year. It will add about $100 to the average tax bill starting in 2015. But that’s on top of about an additional $238 a year taxpayers are shelling out now for big-ticket items approved in the past, such as the Public Safety Center.

Stapczynski’s CIP would ask voters to approve spending on six additional 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.

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