Fiorentini Touts $100M in School Improvements as Council Prepares to Revisit Tax Vote

Mayor James J. Fiorentini has vetoed the Council’s tax vote and plans to reveal a way to use free cash to reduce the tax rate and implement capital improvements on Tuesday. (Alex Guitarr photograph for WHAV News)

As local leaders and Haverhill residents continue to quarrel over the City Council’s Nov. 13 twin tax votes, Mayor James J. Fiorentini is preparing to justify his decision to kill the plan.

After vetoing the two Council tax votes, Fiorentini revealed Friday his new approach to use free cash to both reduce taxes and make school-related repairs. According to documents issued by Fiorentini’s office, the city’s top chief intends to transfer $1.1 million in free cash to be used for capital improvements, on top of an order to use $900,000 of the surplus to reduce next year’s tax rate.

“This tax increase passed by the council, the largest increase in at least 15 years, puts too great a burden on our struggling taxpayers, especially those who live on a fixed income,” Fiorentini told WHAV in the wake of last week’s Council vote.

Last Tuesday, in separate votes, members voted 7-2 to tax to the state’s Proposition 2 ½ limit—since interpreted as the maximum tax levy of $107 million—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.

Some councilors dispute the administration’s position that councilors actually voted to raise the average residential taxpayer’s bill to $353 annually, instead of $215.

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

Ahead of the Council’s Nov. 27 meeting, Fiorentini issued a list of capital improvements made to city schools to date, touting the more than $100 million in upgrades made across the district. This year’s $20,000 Consentino facility study and the 2017 replacement of lockers at the middle school—using $170,000 from the budget—were among the most recent line items.

As WHAV reported this week, weather-related leaks at Consentino prompted city officials and Fiorentini himself to petition for answers—and state aid. “We certainly need to fix the roof and we will. But water leaking from a roof should not be used as an excuse to soak our taxpayers,” the mayor told WHAV. “We have a maintenance plan and a capital plan and these matters will be taken care of.”

WHAV plans to broadcast Tuesday’s meeting live from the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers of City Hall starting at 7 p.m.