Fiorentini Previews Haverhill’s ‘Tight’ Budget Outlook for 2019

Mayor James J. Fiorentini outlines his master plan for Haverhill during his 2018 inauguration ceremony. Councilor Melinda E. Barrett is at left while Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito is at right. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Mayor James J. Fiorentini was sworn in for his eighth term at Haverhill City Hall on Jan. 1. (WHAV News photograph)

State aid for Haverhill will increase in 2019, but the local budget will remain tight, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said this week.

In an email to constituents, Fiorentini acknowledged a “challenging” budget debate over next year’s funds will begin shortly.

“We have made a tremendous effort in the past few years to improve our top two priority items: Schools and police. That will be hard to duplicate this year,’ Fiorentini said.

2017 saw the hiring of five patrolmen, bringing the number of Haverhill’s budgeted police officers to 105. However, with the increase in police personnel came an unexpected rise in gang-related activity citywide. The Mayor has vowed to combat this activity in new and innovative ways thanks to a recent grant award of $130,000.

Through the Sen. Charles E. Shannon Jr. Community Safety Initiative Grant Award, Fiorentini intends to hire a so-called “street worker” to build relationships with gang-involved youth and gang members about to be released from prison.

Also top of mind for Fiorentini is Haverhill’s city schools. Chief priorities, the Mayor said, continue to be early childhood education and after-school programs. Increasing the city’s school budget by more than seven percent, or $5.3 million, last year meant that Haverhill stood out among Gateway cities that were slashing budgets and laying off public school teachers.

However, being ahead of the curve one year isn’t a guarantee the following year will make for smooth sailing.

Simply put, said Fiorentini: “We know that there is more to do. With the budget numbers that face us, we will have to find ways to be innovative and resourceful, to tackle our problems without the large budget increases we have been able to provide in the past.”

Fiorentini is scheduled to deliver his 2019 budget proposal to the City Council in May.