Haverhill City Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett would like to see six additional police officers hired.
While attempts to negotiate a budget compromise between a majority of the City Council and Mayor James J. Fiorentini appear to have failed, the mayor expressed optimism Monday, his $178.5 million budget will be passed Tuesday.
The mayor’s optimism comes as a surprise to several councilors who offered a number of cost-cutting measures to offset the cost of hiring a compromise total of six additional police officers.
“I’m confident the Council will pass a budget. It’s their number one responsibility. I did not submit a one-twelfth budget, and I’m very confident the Council will work with me. This is the third budget that I’ve submitted and I’m confident that they will vote for it,” Fiorentini told WHAV.
Council President John A. Michitson and Vice President Melinda E. Barrett met with the mayor and his Chief of Staff David S. Van Dam early Friday afternoon. Barrett summarized the meeting.
“He will do the four police officers. That was the best he could do. I asked for at least six. I thought six was in the middle. For every three police officers, there is at least one a shift and this would cover two shifts. We won’t have so many forced stays to maintain minimum manpower,” Barrett said. She explained forced stays means officers must work extra shifts at the expense of their family lives.
Meanwhile, Councilor Colin F. LePage has identified underestimated payments to the city of $600,000 and is proposing up to $255,000 in additional cuts.
“I made the offer. These are underestimated revenues. Historically, they’ve always exceeded the budget.” The money, he said, comes from underreported automobile excise taxes, penalties and interest on taxes and investment income. The extra money could be used for the city’s rainy-day fund, returned to the taxpayers, increase public safety or any combination. In any event, LePage said, there would be no tax increase required to hire additional police.
Fiorentini said he is happy with his budget.
“It adds four police. It adds downtown foot patrols. It adds a police reserve list. It brings us to the higher police complement in decades.”