Podcast: Haverhill Receives Nearly $2 Million in State Aid Increases in Proposed House Budget

State Rep. Andy X. Vargas during a previous WHAV appearance with Haverhill City Councilor William J. Macek. (WHAV News file photograph)

The arrival of the coronavirus last year brought worries of deep cuts in state aid, but Haverhill state Rep. Andy X. Vargas said the recently approved House spending plan neither cuts services nor raises taxes.

The nearly $48 billion budget proposal is possible, Vargas said, because of strong state revenue collections, increased federal reimbursement and by using the state’s rainy-day fund. Appearing on WHAV’s live “Win for Breakfast” program Friday morning, Vargas also discussed specific benefits for Haverhill.

“We’re really excited because Haverhill is going to see a $1.6 million increase in Chapter 70 for our schools. It’s also going to see a $400,000 increase in local aid, which is finding that the City of Haverhill could use for diverse purposes,” Vargas explained.

He noted city government would also receive $125,000 in additional state help to pay the debt of the former city-owned Hale Hospital that the city owned for 70 years until selling it in 2001.

In a separate statement, Vargas detailed Haverhill schools would receive a total of nearly $65 million in state aid. The spending plan also sets aside $40 million to help school districts whose fall enrollment drops because of COVID-19, bringing state reimbursements down as well. The city will also see $10.8 million in general local aid.

The budget for the year beginning July 1 is not built on federal American Rescue Plan money. Vargas notes the city will separately benefit from federal aid.

“It’s important for folks to know the American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress, led by Joe Biden, is going to provide the City of Haverhill with $30 million on the city side and the schools went a little bit over $20 million as well,” he said.

Haverhill’s private sector also benefits from special state payments, known as earmarks. Vargas said these include $50,000 for the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, $25,000 to the Haverhill High School’s Violence Intervention and Prevention organization, $25,000 to establish a Haverhill branch of the Lowell-based Entrepreneurship for All and $25,000 for Creative Haverhill to work on city beautification and public art projects. Vargas elaborated on the beautification plan.

“Beautify the overpasses where the train goes over downtown similar to the one that has been beautified by Creative Haverhill. We’ve got that nice ‘Welcome to Haverhill’ sign in front of Stuft,” he said.

Vargas also supported a $50,000 earmark for the Cogswell Art Space, South Main Street, filed by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen.

The proposed House budget is still subject to agreement with the Senate and Gov. Charlie Baker.

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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