Councilors Formally Ask Mayor to Refund Hunking Permit Fee

The new Hunking School continues to rise, with an initial opening planned by next January.

The new Hunking School during the first phase of construction last year.

City Councilor Colin F. LePage, chairman of Administration and Finance Committee.

City Councilor Colin F. LePage, chairman of Administration and Finance Committee.

Haverhill city councilors are trying to claw back a $300,000 building permit fee they say Mayor James J. Fiorentini charged the new Hunking School in 2015.

Specifically, councilors led by Colin F. LePage, voted Tuesday night to have the disputed building permit fee removed from the Hunking School construction budget before finals bills are totaled for the city’s portion of the project.

WHAV was the first to report last year not only was the project charged a fee, but it was expected to be paid by taxpayers with interest over 20 years outside of the tax-limiting law, Proposition 2 ½. That means the expense would be added on top of regular property tax bills because such fees are not reimbursable by the state.

It is not clear whether the mayor will honor councilors’ wishes because the vote was not part of a formal order or ordinance. Fiorentini could not be reached for comment before news deadline. Should the mayor disagree, LePage said this morning, he will craft a more binding order. Because the city processed the fee during another fiscal year, any refunds would have to come from the city’s free cash account to balance the books.

The state is paying 72 percent of the Hunking project. The city has already sold bonds to pay $10 million of the its portion and engaged in temporary borrowing for the rest of the project. When all bills are in, the city will “float” a bond to refinance the temporary borrowing. Whether the $300,000 is included in that total was the subject of LePage’s concern.

Receipts show Haverhill received a $300,000 building and demolition permit fee July 2, 2015 on what was an estimated $50 million Hunking project. School building committee members, however, said they were not aware of the building permit assessment until a meeting a year ago. According to minutes of that meeting, committee members “noted they have no recollection of ever casting a vote to approve the building fee assessment against the project and felt that it would not have been passed if the proposed fee was brought up for a vote.”

2 thoughts on “Councilors Formally Ask Mayor to Refund Hunking Permit Fee

  1. This is a big deal as the Mayor tried to hide his taking of $300k from within the budget of the new school. Residents should be outraged as it amounts to a go around of prop 2 1/2 to grab money that residents of Haverhill will be PAYING interest on. In reality we are paying interest on our OWN MONEY ! When else has he done this ? We can thank on the ball councilor LePage for uncovering this. I wonder what else he can uncover just by overturning a few more rocks ?

    • Jack, you make a great point regarding the thieving mayor!!!! But with all due respect, the theft of this $300,000 is nothing compared to the massive robbery the mayor has been engaged in during the last 6 budgetary fiscal years.

      The City of Haverhill uses a “Traditional” budgeting process. This means budgets are decided by using the previous year’s budget, plus any designated increases, to determine its next operating budget. This is opposed to a “zero based” budget where all expenditures must be justified in each new budget.

      Why is this important? Because in fiscal year 2013 after raising taxes 2.5% the city then ended the year with a budget surplus of $3.5MILLION. Taxes were collected from taxpayers but that money was never spent. In the following 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018 fiscal year budgets that $3.5MILLION was never removed from the baseline number to start the budgeting process. Logic dictates that if the $3.5Million wasn’t needed in the 2013 budget it should have been removed from the starting number in the next year’s budget starting point, right? It wasn’t!! Not only did the mayor bill taxpayers and collect $3.5Million in 2013 and never return that money, he keeps on billing them EVERY year for the $3.5Million by not removing it from the budget.

      This means the city collected $3.5MILLION for six consecutive years after the surplus in the 2013 budget. $21MILLION has been collected through this deception and that does not include the 2.5% yearly budget increase taxpayers pay. 2.5% of $3.5Million equals $87,500.00/year. $87,500 X 6 years = $525,000.00.

      The mayor has ripped off city taxpayers to the tune of $21.5MILLION dollars by manipulating the budget process and not one city official says a peep about it. Not one!!! They just sign off of the budget as if no notices the thievery taking place. That’s because the liberal hacks are all in on supporting this incompetent mayor and the destruction he’s doing to the city.