Andover council approves 2013 budget, levy

The Andover City Council Dec. 18 unanimously approved the 2013 budget and tax levy.

The 2013 levy, which includes revenue for the general fund, debt service and capital projects, is $10,631,299. This was the same amount of the 2012 levy.

The 2013 general fund budget, which pays for most of the city’s day-to-day expenditures, will be increasing from the 2012 budgeted amount of $9,263,720 to $9,619,929.

However, budgets can change throughout the year. Although the council’s estimated general fund budget for 2012 was $9,263,720, the actual amount will be closer to $9,777,616.

The big reason for the increase is because the council recently approved setting aside $600,000 from its capital equipment reserve for the construction of a new city park at the northeast corner of 161st Avenue and Tulip Street in 2013.

With this new park and other investments the city has been making to its overall parks system, Councilmember Sheri Bukkila said getting the public works maintenance staffing level closer to what it was before cuts were made during the recession was one of the most important 2013 budget goals for her. The council approved hiring one additional public works maintenance employee for 2013.

“It’s important to get parks maintenance staff back in place because we expanded that infrastructure and are set to expand even more,” Bukkila said.

The expansion of the Andover YMCA/Community Center is one of Councilmember Tony Howard’s top goals. Howard was on the community center task force that investigated options before the council agreed to build the facility, and he was chairperson of the capital campaign committee.

The ice rink opened in November 2004 and the rest of the facility opened in the summer of 2005. This would be the first expansion of the facility, if the council ultimately votes to proceed.

The city’s 2013-2017 capital improvement plan budgets $250,000 in 2013 and $2.75 million in 2014 for the expansion project, which would be paid for by the city issuing general obligation bonds. Expansion may include a youth center, additional meeting rooms, office space, library service space, storage, hockey training and multi-purpose space, according to the CIP.

“They’re short on space,” Howard said of the Andover YMCA/Community Center. “It’s important to see what they need to move forward.”

Replacing an old ladder truck with a new one for the fire department was another important goal that Howard wanted to see accomplished. He said with Andover getting a new big box store (Walmart), with the new three-story Arbor Oaks senior living facility being constructed and with all the cul-de-sacs in Andover where homes are set farther back from the road, a ladder truck is important to have.

Andover is budgeting $1.2 million spread over the next two years for the new ladder truck, according to the 2013-2017 CIP.

Mayor Mike Gamache said bringing in the additional public works maintenance employee and holding the levy at the 2012 amount or perhaps reducing it were his two big goals.

When asked if it was a challenge to maintain the levy at its 2012 level, Bukkila said it would have been much more difficult if the city had not been as conservative in the past as it was.

“Our staff in the last four to five years have done a great job in trying to reduce costs in any way they can,” Gamache said.

Gamache alluded to the furloughs staff took a couple of years ago to save the city money. From September 2009 through early July 2010, every city staff member had to take four hours of unpaid furlough. A few employees voluntarily stayed in the furlough program until the end of 2010.

Gamache said things have been getting better for the city since then. In fact, the council Dec. 18 approved a 1.5 percent salary increase for all its non-union employees.

Debt service levy

Most of the $10,631,299 total levy is for the general fund ($7,332,857).

The next highest levy is for debt service with a 2013 budgeted amount of $1,961,474. This compares with a 2012 amount of $1,907,551.

The biggest contributor to this increase is a new debt service levy of $138,339. According to City Administrator Jim Dickinson, these new bonds refunded a previous issue that financed the construction of Fire Station No. 3.

The city sold $1.57 million of bonds and got an extremely low interest rate of 0.9488 percent. Dickinson said the city will save $73,088 over the long term by refinancing this debt.

Andover saw its debt service levy for the community center decrease by $62,557 from its 2012 amount due to a recent refinancing.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]