Council Hears Mayor Fiorentini’s $231.1 Million Spending Plan; Scrutiny Continues Next Week

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Mayor James J. Fiorentini Tuesday introduced his proposed spending plan for the year that begins July 1.

The Haverhill City Council, which began its scrutiny of the $231.1 million budget the night before, heard the mayor express his view that previous budgeting has played a hand in the redevelopment of Haverhill’s downtown. The result has been property values increasing there by $78 million—or $6.5 million more in property taxes—during the past two decades. Building on that success, Fiorentini said, he wants more money spent elsewhere.

“Now, I’d like to concentrate on the neighborhoods. I’d like to use some of that money and money from other sources like ARPA for increased attention to our neighborhoods. I’d also like to develop a long-term plan to improve our streets and sidewalks and get closer to the goal of making every neighborhood in the city, a walkable neighborhood,” he said.

The mayor said his goals are a balanced budget, as required by state law; providing good service to city residents; and maintaining adequate reserves. He added his budget includes an increase of 23% for sidewalk repairs and the addition of four more people to the highway department. He noted, however, the increase is still not be enough to address every street and sidewalk issue in the city. It does add $70,000 for trees, plants and shrubs to help beautify Haverhill’s neighborhoods.

The plan increases overall city spending by $14 million or 6.5%. It also includes an increase of $7.6 million for city schools. Fiorentini stressed his belief the budget must be sustainable and not rely on one-time money for recurring needs.

City Chief Financial Officer Angel Wills echoed the mayor’s call for a responsible and sustainable budget to maintain a favorable bond rating and protect Haverhill in case of economic downturn. Wills told the councilors Haverhill is on solid ground in those areas.

“I’m happy to report that we are meeting all of our benchmarks. Our financial position does look favorable. That has been reconfirmed with a double-A bond rating, and having manageable debt service, having a reasonable tax rate, having excess reserves actually does stretch the tax dollars to go further,” she said.

Councilors reviewed proposed City Hall executive office spending Monday night. Next week, it takes on the Fire Department, library and others. The final budget hearing is planned for Tuesday, June 14.

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