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Merrimack Valley

February 26, 2014

Selectman Kowalski: Give taxpayers a $1M break

ANDOVER — In a grand gesture to cash-strapped taxpayers, Selectman Dan Kowalski Monday night threw down a challenge to his fellow board members and the town’s leadership, calling for a $1 million tax cut that could trim up to $70 from the average property tax bill.

It was a proposal that seemed to echo the sentiment of the night, as one speaker after another called for spending restraint and taxpayer relief.

“Let’s give the taxpayers a break,” said Kowalski, who made his proposal at the start of the regular Selectmen’s meeting. He proposed using $1 million in so-called ‘free cash’ that has been earmarked by Town Manager Reginald ‘Buzz’ Stapczynski to offset the high cost of retirement benefits.

“Free cash is made up of taxes we have charged our residents but haven’t spent,” he said. “Instead of taxing up to the levy, let’s consider taking that $1 million and using it to offset the tax levy and give taxpayers a one-year break.”

Kowalski said he’s been hearing from residents in town that their taxes are too high. One reason is that the initial payments on the Bancroft Elementary School override just hit the latest round of tax bills. People are seeing their taxes go up by $300 or more, he said.

The tax levy is the amount of money the town raises each year in property taxes. By law, it can only go up 2.5 percent a year. However, if the residents of a city or town vote to approve paying for a project like the $50 million Bancroft School, taxes can go up beyond 2.5 percent, as they did this year in Andover.

“This should be a priority,” said Kowalski.

The town manager replied that free cash is made up of a myriad of sources, not just tax dollars, and that it is funded primarily by town departments, leaving the school department out of the equation.

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