ANDOVER — Facing a budget gap that would increase the cost of the Bancroft Elementary School project by nearly 13 percent, tonight’s Special Town Meeting will set a course for the project that officials hope will complete the work.
Voters will be asked to raise $5.7 million to put the previously $44 million Bancroft Elementary School back on track after nearly a year of litigation and skyrocketing construction costs blew the project off course.
If approved, most of the money would be raised using a prior Jan. 2011 “debt exclusion” ballot vote, which raises taxes from one year to the next beyond what’s allowed under a “Proposition 2 1/2” state law, to cover the cost of the project. Proposition 2 1/2 was established to prevent towns from raising their taxes more than 2.5 percent from one year to the next unless residents approve of it first.
With the prior debt exclusion vote raising taxes by as high as $157 over the next 20 years, approving the spending tonight will add $24 more to the average household’s tax bill in 2015, the highest year of debt repayment, according to Finance Committee Chairman Jon Stumpf.
The remaining portion of the money, $1.58 million if approved, will be paid for within Proposition 2 1/2 tax limits, according to Stumpf.
That’s if the spending is approved, however. If not, officials say another vote will take place at Annual Town Meeting in the first week of May, this time for $7.1 million.
Appeals, lawsuit spark deficit
The source of the controversy goes back to August 25, 2011 — months after Special Town Meeting approved the project.
At that time, a wave of appeals hit the project. Dana Willis, a South Main Street resident, appealed an Order of Conditions issued by the Conservation Commission to allow construction that impacts wetlands near the school. The next day, the Mann family on South Main Street also appeals the project. Both appeals were on the grounds that “there has been no proper evaluation of runoff and related stormwater controls during construction,” an abutter-financed engineering review of the plans said.