With Haverhill’s budget negotiation season commencing, city councilors received their first formal briefing this week on a proposed $216 million budget.
Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini presented his budget Tuesday for the year that begins July 1. He said the total represents an increase of 2.6% over this year.
“The overall budget is balanced for the 18th year in a row without an override, a debt exclusion, without any cuts in vital services. In fact, we continue to improve and expand our services without a major tax increase,” he said.
The mayor said the city budget will provide a fully funded public library, secure the positions of 17 recently hired police officers and provide a salary increase for all police officers. The mayor said the element he is most pleased with, however, is that it will establish a new Department of Public Health.
“I envision this Department of Public Health will work with our direct care providers including the brand new Greater Lawrence Family Health Clinic to provide people with the services they need. If the Council approves this budget, I intend to appoint, as the first director of this department, our outstanding Citizen’s Center nurse, Mary Connolly,” he said.
Fiorentini noted the $216 million total does not include federal relief money coming to the city.
“The federal relief money coming to the city side is called the American Rescue Plan and we are getting approximately $25 million. We will also get a proportionate share of the money that would go to Essex County. We will get approximately an additional $13 million, for a total that we will get of $37,400,000—an incredible amount of money,” he said.
The mayor told the Council the one-time federal payment must be spent within four years. He said his vision for much of it is to make water and sewer improvements and increase the availability of broadband internet access throughout the city. He said approximately $700,000 goes to the school system to make up for lost Medicaid money, but he is hopeful that part of it can be used to improve the city’s roads and sidewalks.
Councilors offered comments and a few suggestions, generally reporting they looked forward to working with him in creating the best budget possible.
On an unrelated matter, the Council approved a request by the School Committee to send two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for improvements to the William H. Moody and Silver Hill public schools.
Council had asked to hear from Facilities Director Stephen D. Dorrance regarding the condition of those schools, but learned he is recovering from recent surgery and not able to attend.