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