Haverhill Council OKs Most of Fiorentini’s Plan to Save Money Now While Preparing for the Worst

Haverhill City Councilors in session at the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Looking ahead to difficult financial times ahead, Haverhill city councilors largely agreed this week with a series of spending cuts suggested by Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

Fiorentini proposed transferring nearly $275,000 from various planned projects and placing the money in a COVID-19 emergency account. He painted a rather bleak picture of a post-coronavirus economy.

“Next year’s budget is going to be a very, very difficult budget. No one knows how bad it’s going to be. Our revenues are going to plummet dramatically. Our real estate tax revenue will stay the same but people aren’t going to be happy about that. Their house values will go down but their taxes will go up. State aid to us can’t be anything but down with state revenues taking such a plunder. So, what I’m recommending is that we keep our reserves and that we go through some of these projects and see what we can put on hold,” Fiorentini said.

The mayor proposed holding off on such projects as a traffic signal improvement plan, Water Street greenway project, Main Street traffic improvement, Highway Department bucket truck, a document management program and repair of a retaining wall behind city hall.

While some councilors agreed with the plan, others, such as Councilor Michael S. McGonagle, said money for the emergency fund should come from the city’s surplus—also known as “free cash.” He argued, any money spent on COVID-19 should be reimbursed by the federal government.

Councilor Michael S. McGonagle. (WHAV News file photograph.)

“I don’t feel at this time that we should scrap these items and I believe that it is imperative that we set up a fund but that we take most of this money from free cash,” McGonagle said.

Fiorentini has steadfastly opposed deep incursions into the account. He told WHAV. “I will be taking a series of steps in the next few days to begin preparing for what we know is going to be an extremely difficult budget next year.” (See separate story.)

In the end, the Council agreed that most of the mayor’s suggested projects could be delayed and voted to move just over $130,000 into the emergency account, withholding approximately $144,000 for the city hall retaining wall which they said might be a safety hazard.

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