ANDOVER — By a wide margin, voters at Saturday’s annual town meeting again rejected a town-wide property revaluation and the $70,000 of taxpayer money requested to fund it.

Voters approved a $180,000 payment to the SAD 44 school district to keep Andover Elementary School open, and voted to raise $20,000 for future repairs to Farmers Hill Road.

They also approved a municipal budget and measures to update the town’s tax maps and to design a town website, but they rejected articles to allow residents to pay bills with credit cards and to renew vehicle registration online.

About 100 people attended the early hours of the proceedings, but the crowd dwindled to about 50 as the afternoon wore on.

The defeat of the property revaluation was the most recent in a line of attempts in past years by selectmen to start the process. This year, the article asked for $70,000 in taxes and $33,000 from the town’s designated revaluation account. Andover has reportedly not had a revaluation since the late 1980s.

Selectman Judy Tabb said more than a few properties in town are worth more than is recorded, because they have additions that were never permitted.

A revaluation would not increase the overall amount of taxes paid by residents, said Selectman Keith Farrington, but it would make sure all property owners were paying their fair share. He said it was “discouraging” to see people not pay what they really owed.

Resident Wayne Delano vocally opposed the measure, saying the town had repeatedly rejected it, but selectmen apparently did not get the message.

The town’s valuation is 85 percent of the state’s assessment, which is where it should be, Delano said. He said there was no value in spending more than $100,000 to start a process the town didn’t need.

Others, including Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Susan Merrow, agreed a revaluation was necessary, but she said this year was not the right time, especially since the town’s tax maps have to be updated and townspeople still must decide the future of Andover Elementary School.

A follow-up motion to raise $10,000 for the revaluation account squeaked through by a 33-31 vote.

The article asking for $180,000 to pay SAD 44 to keep Andover Elementary open sparked a lively debate among voters before it passed with a strong majority.

The amount is $40,000 larger than what Andover paid last year, in what some residents refer to as the school district’s “ransom money.”

A three-year effort to withdraw from SAD 44 failed in January, when the measure failed to receive a two-thirds majority in a special town election.

Selectmen said they knew the SAD 44 board would ask for more money from the town in the upcoming year, but they were not sure how much, so they presented $180,000 as a probable amount. Resident Esau Cooper said the SAD 44 board would accept the $180,000, but nothing less.

Merrow, who is not seeking a new term this year, said she thought the town should cut off the payments in 2015.

“We won’t be paying ransom money after this year,” Merrow said. “That’s it.”

Although some, including Delano, questioned why selectmen would simply offer the money, most residents appeared to grudgingly support spending to keep the school open as the town’s best option until it sorted out the school’s future.

Townspeople are expected to vote on a ballot measure to restart the withdrawal process at the polls on Tuesday.

“This town needs to make up its mind,” resident Ronald Wells said. “We’ve got to stop fooling around, get off the damn system and run our own show.” That sparked exuberant applause cut short by the gavel of moderator Bob Duplessie.

A request to put $100,000 into a reserve account for badly needed reconstruction on Farmers Hill Road was amended to $20,000 before it was approved. Voters last year rejected borrowing $320,000 to fix the road, considered the worst in town, at a special town meeting. 

Several residents said the town should focus on paying down its existing debt before investing in large-scale road improvements.

After a brief discussion, voters approved $20,000 to update the town’s tax maps, which Merrow said were “abominable,” out of date and conflicted with records at the Oxford County Registry of Deeds.

Another resident, who identified herself as a Realtor, said prospective property buys were turned off from Andover because of its out-of-date maps.

In other action, the town will finally get a website: Voters approved $1,300 to hire a local Web designer. Although several residents questioned the necessity of a website, others noted that it would help visitors find information about the town more easily and give residents easy access to information.

Residents will not, however, be able to pay their bills with a credit or debit card at the town office. Voters rejected a measure to allow the transactions, mainly over concerns that it may add to the treasurer’s workload and turn it into a benefited position.

Voters also rejected a measure to allow people to re-register their automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles on Maine’s online Rapid Renewal service.

Voters approved 3 percent raises for hourly and salaried employees, but only 1 percent increases in the hourly stipends paid to members of town boards and committees.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.