A second consecutive record high city budget proposal of $168.6 million was presented to the Haverhill city council Tuesday night.
Budget hearings by the council are set to begin next week as Mayor James J. Fiorentini Tuesday night unveiled a new city budget proposal for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. In an address to the council, Fiorentini outlined a total budget increase of $8.8 million over the current budget, including a public education budget increase by $2.9 million or 3.85 percent. It is also $2.1 million above a minimum spending requirement. He said it is the largest spending increase item.
“This year the $2.9 million increase in funding for education basically goes to pay for increases in special education costs. This is simply unsustainable. Unless we, the city and the state, do a better job of controlling special education costs, we’ll see this problem year after year after year,” Fiorentini said.
The new budget would also cover, in full, a snow removal deficit, add one new police officer plus two others through a grant. The new budget also includes $4 million in one-time money–$2.4 million of which would be set aside to replenish reserves. He said it achieves the “twin goals of fiscal discipline and improving the quality of life in the city.”
“We’re able to balance the budget without taxing to the max and improve services at the same time for three primary reasons. First, last year we had an extraordinary year with a number of one-time items adding to our free cash totals. The sale of land, excise taxes being up, etc. Some of that free cash is used in this budget. Number two, over the years we exercised strict fiscal discipline, controlled our expenses and not given in to unreasonable demands and that must continue for the fiscal stability of the city of Haverhill. And number three, most important, the extraordinary efforts of state Representative Brian Dempsey, who once again came through for the city with $2.4 million to assist us in paying the Hale debt, the largest municipal debt in the history of the commonwealth,” Fiorentini said.
Fiorentini said revenues, including state aid, are up substantially.
“Chapter 70 school aid is up $1.7 million from the state and that’s a large part of the $3 million increase they’re getting in their budget. Unrestricted local aid, that’s the money that goes to cities in order to be able to balance its budget, that is up 3.6 percent, $314,000. We’re a long way from the way we were just a few years ago when we were talking about big cuts in state aid. Some additional revenue sources, the meals tax, we’re estimating will bring in $784,000 this year,” Fiorentini said.
Fiorentini said the budget would not increase property taxes to the maximum amount by preserving a $600,000 levy reserve.