ANDOVER — Voters at town meeting Saturday approved a municipal budget of $520,432 — $52,568 less than last year’s spending plan.
The budget didn’t include school and county taxes, which are determined later in the year.
Another unknown that will affect taxation is the amount selectmen choose to borrow on a 10-year note for at least 10 road repair projects.
SAD 44 school board Director Sid Pew to raise and appropriate up to $500,000 for long-term road repair.
Road Commissioner Marshall Meisner suggested only $400,000 was needed because the remainder could be taken from Andover’s allocation from the state’s Urban/Rural Initiative Program Highway Fund.
“I can’t see raising tax dollars when we have money coming in,” Meisner said. “The state gives us this money every year and I was assured that the URIP money is not going down.”
However, no one amended Pew’s motion to $400,000 before it was approved, which drew a surprised reaction from Board of Selectmen Chairman Susan Merrow, who said she thought the cap should be $400,000.
“Five hundred thousand dollars will affect taxation, but $400,000 will probably just come out of URIP,” Merrow said. “A few minutes ago, you people didn’t want to let the Recreation Committee spend $4,000 on fields and now you’ve OK’d $500,000 for roads.”
Resident Brian Mills said extensive road repairs are long overdue and that $500,000 would be the best option to do the work all at once.
“We found out by piecemealing these roads years ago that they never get done,” Mills said.
“We should be doing 1½ miles a year and we haven’t done it,” Meisner said. “If we had, they wouldn’t be in this shape.”
In the list of road projects totaling $440,000, proposals include chip seal and overlay work on 4.3 miles of East Andover Road, chip sealing 3.5 miles of Upton Road from the town line of West Surplus to Crockett Bridge, chip seal and overlay work to 3.1 miles of South Arm Road, and overlay work on a half-mile of the Covered Bridge Road.
Excluded from the list, according to Meisner, was repairing and paving 1 mile of Farmers Hill Road. He said that work would cost $277,450.
An accompanying article asked whether the town should borrow up to $500,000 at an estimated maximum annual interest rate of 4.5 percent, which Merrow and Selectman Keith Farrington — agreeing with voters — said was high. They will negotiate for a lower rate.
When people asked how it would affect taxes, businessman and Planning Board member Leon Akers said the annual payment on a $500,000 bond at 4.5-percent interest would be $61,250.
A majority then OK’d borrowing up to $500,000 for the listed road projects.
Another article asked whether the town would raise a designated fund amount to keep Andover Elementary School open if the SAD 44 School Board voted to close it. Merrow apologized for neglecting to put in a monetary figure.
Voters rejected the article, saying they wanted to wait and see what the school board does and to get more information.
“I honestly think that if Andover Elementary School closes, it’s the end this town,” fire Chief Rob Dixon said. “Life as we know it is done, period.”
Dixon and others said the town couldn’t afford to raise an estimated $250,000 per year to keep it open.
Residents Brad Thibodeau and Scott Owings urged residents to vote it down.
“We don’t know what the school board is going to do, but the initial estimate of $250,000 is a tax burden I don’t think this town can bear,” Owings said. “I don’t want to see the school close, because I don’t think the town can handle it.”
During Saturday’s annual town meeting, Andover Budget Committee member Richard Merrill explains the committee’s consensus on a social services request after confused voters learned that both the committee’s and selectmen’s recommendations were mislabeled as requests from social service agencies.