Fiorentini Proposes $231.1 Million in Haverhill Spending or $14 Million More Than Current Year

A moment of compromise in 2019. Finance Director Charles Benevento confers with Mayor James J. Fiorentini. Author Christopher Golden is seated in the foreground. (WHAV News photograph.)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Haverhill city councilors receive Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s proposed $231.1 million budget tonight.

The draft spending plan for the year beginning July 1 raises overall city spending by $14 million or 6.5%. It increases the school budget by $7.6 million for a total of $106.3 million. Under the city charter, city councilors typically may only cut spending rather than increase any favored line items. In a statement Monday, the mayor said he is pleased to propose, what he called, “another very large school budget increase.”

“For many years in a row, we have been making big annual increases to the school budget to try to make up for too many years of the state underfunding our schools,” the mayor said. “Now that the state is finally making up for historically underfunding our schools with a $9 million increase next year, we can start focusing on some of our other departments that have fallen behind.”

While Fiorentini said his plan gives the school department the bulk of $8.9 million in the state education aid, it deducts $1.3 million to reimburse the city for additional health insurance recipients stemming from the hiring of 56 additional school staff and a 6.2% insurance rate increase from the state’s Group Insurance Commission. The mayor added he is not required to turn over any of the additional aid, known as Chapter 70 money, because the school budget will be $9.4 million above the state minimum.

Fiorentini said the police budget also increases by 8.4%, including new social workers and drug counselors to help combat the opioid epidemic. It also guarantees at least four new firefighter positions, either through a federal grant or the regular budget and four fire department civilian dispatchers.

Back in January, Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 President Tim Carroll appealed to city councilors to help convince the mayor to add two new firefighters per shift for a total of eight. He explained an extra firefighter in two of the trucks improves their ability to protect the city. Carroll also said Haverhill is understaffed according to National Fire Protection Association standards.

The mayor said other spending highlights include money for three new unmarked police cruisers, full-time information technology job, a grant-writer, the restoration of a part-time assistant city solicitor’s position, $50,000 for city beautification and $20,000 for trees and shrubs, four highway department positions, a library archivist and increasing sidewalk spending by 23%.

Separately, the wastewater department plans to spend $13.8 million and the water department $11.8 million. These amounts are typically paid by ratepayers on sewer and water bills.

The Council and School Committee have scheduled budget meetings to consider the mayor’s proposals, culminating with a final council review and preliminary voting Wednesday, June 8. The final council vote usually takes place at the next regular Tuesday night meeting following the final review.

The Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m. remotely and in-person at the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers, room 202, Haverhill City Hall, 4 Summer St., As a public service, 97.9 WHAV plans to carry the meeting live.

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