City Council Passes Haverhill Budget in 8-1 About-Face Vote

(WHAV News file photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

City Councilors Tuesday voted 8-1 to approve Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. (WHAV News file photograph)

On the heels of the Haverhill City Council’s 5-4 compromise vote June 20 to tentatively approve Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s $195 million spending plan, Councilors Tuesday offered a somewhat abrupt about-face, voting eight members to one to approve the vote, with Councilor Tim Jordan being the sole holdout.

Tabulated at the top of Tuesday’s meeting, the blink-and-you-missed-it vote from City Hall formally wrapped up weeks of budget negotiations related to city, schools, water and wastewater costs.

Although Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua voted to pass the budget, he acknowledged the heavy burden Haverhill taxpayers must shoulder.

“We’re mandated by the federal government to make some of these changes. Unfortunately the federal government gives us no money and that’s a pitiful thing because what’s happening is we have to fund these multi-million dollar improvements on the backs of our local taxpayers through rate,” said Bevilacqua. “I hope we see some money come from the federal government to increase the opportunities to improve our aging infrastructure in the City of Haverhill.”

All told, the budget for the 2019 fiscal year starting July 1 uses just over $5 million in free cash along with $181 million to be collected in taxes and fees. Almost $800,000 will be raised in water and wastewater fees to operate the city’s Water Department.

Beginning July 1, water and wastewater rates will increase. Water rates will rise from $4.88 to $5.33 per 100 cubic feet; wastewater rates increase from $2.90 to $3.02 per hundred cubic feet. The new rates will be reflected in water bills issued Aug. 1.

A portion of the water rate increase will pay for federal environmental improvements required in a consent decree between the city and the EPA that, among other things, are designed to reduce the amount of storm runoff into the Merrimack River.

In a statement to WHAV following the vote, Fiorentini said he was pleased with Councilors’ approval, which signals support for his key areas of concern in the city: Public safety, education and fiscal stability.

Summed up Fiorentini: “All in all, this is a good budget.”