Journal Inquirer

May 6, 2016

ANDOVER — Residents at Thursday night’s town meeting voted 41-4 to send a budget of $12.2 million — a 12.93 percent increase — to referendum on Tuesday, May 17.
The increased budget is due to Andover’s representing a higher percentage of the RHAM school system population, higher resident trooper costs, funding for a part-time public works facility manager, a town planner, and capital spending.
The town’s tax rate of 30.72 mills will not be increased, however, as the town applied surpluses to capital expenditures from the general fund, non-recurring fund, restricted fund, school improvement fund, and working capital.
The tax rate has been virtually steady since 1985 when it was 30.5 mills. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The offsetting funds toward capital spending total $1.10 million, in money that has been earmarked for years for the town’s essential needs, Board of Finance Chairman Daniel Warren said.
“Recent budget surpluses associated with insurance, snow removal, town engineer, and transfer station are also utilized to offset costs in 2016-17,” Warren said.
The cost of capital improvements total $811,970, an increase $543,825 over the previous spending plan.
The improvements are part of the town’s 10-year plan, and include $398,280 to replace the Times Farm Bridge, $308,025 to restore the Andover Elementary School roof, $240,000 for open space, $80,000 to fire department apparatus, $25,000 to replace library windows, and $20,000 for a senior center bus.
A proposal to buy a public works loader for $175,000 was rejected in the capital improvement budget because town officials said they needed to better understand the public works department’s workflow before spending the money.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had slashed Education Cost Sharing Grants imposing $90,494 in cuts to the town when the Board of Finance approved the budget on April 28. Malloy, however, restored the money in his most recent budget.
Expenditures for resident state troopers will increase just over $25,000, or 18.3 percent, as the state imposed contractual increases mandating towns to shoulder 85 percent of those costs.
There were no increases to the Board of Education’s budget of $4.16 million. The town ranks 124 of 168 in the state for expenditures per pupil.
Community members Thursday questioned the use of open space funds arguing the town already has excess available land. Others asked what operating increases would demonstrate if the town didn’t have surpluses to apply to line items.
Warren said the operating costs would have been raised $184,000, or 1.75 percent, which include increases of $117,000 to RHAM’s levy. At last month’s meeting, he projected about a 0.5-mill rate increase would have been needed for those items.
“The true operating government budget is only being increased by about $66,000,” he said.
The May 17 referendum will be held in the Town Office Building’s community room from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Only 11.4 percent of 2,063 voters turned out in last year’s approved referendum, as 193 of 234 voted to approve the $10.8 million budget, or 1.67 percent increase.