Mayor Fiorentini Vetoes Tax Plan; Council to Vote Again Nov. 27

Mayor James J. Fiorentini smiled as he blocked a proposed tax plan from the City Council to raise taxes for Haverhill residents, on average, by $353 annually. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill city councilors will have to begin from scratch deciding how much to raise property taxes and how to allocate that increase between residents and businesses.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini killed the plan Friday afternoon, affixing his veto stamp to the plans approved by the Council earlier this week.

“This tax increase passed by the council, the largest increase in at least 15 years, puts too great a burden on our struggling tax payers, especially those who live on a fixed income,” Fiorentini said.

Councilors will take up the matter Tuesday, Nov. 27. Last Tuesday, in separate votes, members voted 7-2 to tax to the state’s Proposition 2 ½ limit rather than offset increases with surpluses. They also narrowly supported by a vote of 5-4 a compromise plan to shift more of that tax burden onto businesses.

Fiorentini said the average residential taxpayer would need to pay an additional $353 in taxes annually under this plan. He said residents have gone through a lot in the 15 years he has been mayor, facing increases in water and waste water rates, local meal taxes, downtown parking charges and paying for the new Hunking Middle School.

At Tuesday’s meeting, supporters of spending more on education as well as those opposed to raising the proportion of taxes charged to business argued for taxing to the limits imposed by the state’s Proposition 2 ½ state cap.

However, at a press conference in his office, Fiorentini smiled as his used a large red-ink VETO stamp to block councilor’s actions. He argued the recent financial success of Haverhill delivers extra money that should allow the city to assist the residents in this matter.

“This is something for all of us to celebrate. We went from having the largest deficit in the history of the state, the Hale debt, to having the largest surplus in the history of our city. That surplus gives us the flexibility to do more to provide our citizens with better services without taxing our citizens to the max,” Fiorentini said.

Councilors could still override the mayor’s veto if they have at least six votes to do so.

As WHAV reported Wednesday, the council voted to tax to the maximum tax levy of $107 million. The council also voted against a plan proposed by Fiorentini to use $1 million of the city’s $12.8 million in surplus funds – or “free cash” – against the tax levy. Several supporters of the Haverhill School Committee and business representatives argued for taxing to the maximum levy to bolster business in the city and give the school district more funds for school repairs. Fiorentini said the recent financial success of Haverhill should allow the city to assist the residents in this matter.

At the Nov. 27 meeting, the mayor said he will also present spending plans for school and fire department improvements.