Haverhill Wants Reimbursement For Costly Laws; Michitson Also Seeks Plan for Paying Major Expenses

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 2019. (WHAV News photograph.)

A state auditor’s report first released last spring found 29 state laws passed between 2016 and 2020 have imposed significant financial burdens on Massachusetts cities and towns. One Haverhill city councilor is particularly concerned about rising election costs.

Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan convinced his colleagues Tuesday night to unanimously ask for the state pay back the money.

“One area in particular that I thought was interesting was elections. Elections have expanded. We now have mail-in. We now have early voting. Our election costs have gone up a lot and we’re not being reimbursed by the state for those additional costs,” he said.

State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump’s Division of Local Mandates reported last March “Massachusetts continues to pass laws that often require resources from cities and towns for implementation. These measures are largely financed by local property taxes as state aid lags behind increasing local assessments.”

The report, required every five years under state law, reports cost fall under such categories as education, elections, employees, employment benefits, licensing, municipal services, public safety and taxation.

Sullivan said he spoke with state Rep. Andy X. Vargas, telling him his intention to ask the City Council to write a letter to the state representatives asking them to look into the report to see how the city could be reimbursed.

The council agreed to the proposal by a vote of 9-0.

In a separate matter the council heard from Vice President John A. Michitson who proposed sending a letter to Mayor James J. Fiorentini asking for a five- to 10-year plan for paying for major projects facing the city. Those projects include road improvements, water and wastewater updates and new buildings for the Dr. Albert B. Consentino and John Greenleaf Whittier Schools and Haverhill’s portion of a planned rebuilding of the Whittier Regional Vocational-Technical High School.

“The total cost to the Whittier Tech district is going to be $247 million to $296 million and 41% of that is Haverhill. So, that is $99 million to $122 million. We need a plan for that. It’s coming,” he said.

Council President Timothy J. Jordan also suggested an idea, which he attributed to Haverhill Chief Financial Officer Angel Willis, that the city consider having an independent comprehensive analysis of these upcoming costs

Councilors also supported Michitson’s proposal by a unanimous 9-0 vote.

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