Crime, Education and Transportation Among Council’s Concerns This Week

(WHAV News file photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

Haverhill City Council (WHAV News photo by Jay Saulnier)

As state and local budgets take shape in anticipation of the start of a new fiscal year on July 1, city councilors will examine three areas — public safety, education, and transportation — affected recently by what many observers contend is inadequate funding.

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro and Mayor James J. Fiorentini are expected to update the council and city residents on the two murders committed this year.

A representative of the Haverhill Education Coalition plans to address the council about school funding.

Councilor William J. Macek has asked to raise the issue of looming cutbacks by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority bus service.

The council meets beginning at 7 p.m. in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers on the second floor of Haverhill City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

Two weeks ago, Fiorentini unveiled a budget that proposes spending $84 million to run the city for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins July 1. He proposed hiring an additional lieutenant to lead a four-man gang unit. Last year, the mayor agreed to hire five police officers. The cost of those officers’ salaries hits the city budget this year.

The pressure to devote enough funding to public safety and education is increasing due to the growing threat of gang violence and the strengthening voice of a local public schools advocacy movement.

The School Committee at its last meeting approved an unbalanced budget that added more than $400,000 to the mayor’s spending plan. Fiorentini refused to present the larger amount to the City Council when it comes time for a vote on the budget.

On the issue of potential cuts to city bus service, it is the state budget, not local funding, that is the culprit. State representatives have trimmed a proposed $80.4 million budget for the state’s regional transit authorities to $80 million, which transit authority officials say will either raise costs for commuters or cut services, or both.

Gov. Charlie Baker proposed level funding the RTAs for FY2019. For most government agencies, the transit authorities included, a new year brings higher costs as a result of contracted pay increases, health insurance costs, fuel prices and more. As a result, the same amount of money doesn’t go as far, administrators say.

Macek said he wants to discuss the effects of service cutbacks on Haverhill residents, many of whom do not own cars and are dependent on the MVRTA bus service to get to work.

Anticipated cutbacks include ending Sunday service and reducing weekday hours by starting one hour later in the morning and ending one hour earlier in the evening.