ANDOVER — A debt analysis of a proposed five-year plan for town projects paints a grim picture for tax bills in 2017 and 2018, one that officials would like to see more data on.
Town administrators used a debt-analysis tool to show how town debt would be affected by a plan for large projects proposed by Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski two weeks ago, which includes a new Town Yard, Ballardvale Fire Station and other large school construction projects. The results were presented to the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee yesterday.
Assuming $67 million in major projects, the average annual tax bill in town (currently $7,967) would jump $519.07 by 2018. That also assumes residents would approve all projects by 2016 with debt exclusion override votes, raising taxes above Proposition 2 1/2 tax levy limits.
“This is a visual depiction of what all that debt looks like stacked up on top of each other,” assistant Town Manager Steve Bucuzzo said.
As it stands, assuming voters approve a $6 million appropriation to put the Bancroft Elementary School project back on budget early next year, the average tax bill would be up $181.25 in 2018 from that project alone. Current estimates are that the project is $5 million over budget.
The tool also accounted for $8 million in exempt debt for building a new Ballardvale Fire Station, $18 million for a new Town Yard, $10.4 million for additions and renovations at Andover High School and $5 million to build an early education center.
The level of debt “is already jumping up quite a bit just with the Bancroft project itself,” Bucuzzo said. “You start adding on other projects within the next couple years, and you need to be prepared to explain that to the taxpayers, how that’s going to impact their tax bills.”
Members of the boards characterized the situation as a worst-case scenario, suggesting that the projects could be timed differently.
“That’s not to say these are the exact plans to move the projects, or their timing,” Bucuzzo said. “The topic of discussion for the three boards is the priorities, and setting the priorities of the projects and perhaps their timing.”
If the town approved all of the projects, the actual increase in taxes would depend on property values at the time, grants and reimbursements affecting the project’s final cost, and at what interest rates the town would borrow the money. All numbers assumed a 3-percent interest rate on borrowed money, according to Finance Director Donna Walsh.
The town also accounted for how Stapczynski’s present capital improvement plan requests over the next five years would impact the town’s budget. While the data reflected a combined $9.7 million in projects, the money needed to pay for those within the town’s regular tax revenues would make up nearly 3 percent of the town’s projected $166 million budget for that year.
Officials asked Stapczynski to modify the data to reflect annual revenue increases at 3 percent instead of 3.5 percent, the value used to put the table together, while also re-calculating the larger projects to show how they impacted tax bills cumulatively. The boards are scheduled to meet a third time sometime in January to go over the new data.