The state agreed Wednesday to pick up $11.5 million more—or up to about $80.5 million—of the cost to build a replacement Dr. Albert B. Consentino School, giving in to concerns reimbursements are not keeping pace with high inflation.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini said political pressure, that he described as “a tremendous team effort,” was brought to bear on the Massachusetts School Building Authority to help Haverhill pay the estimated $160 million cost of the new middle school.
“I hoped to impress upon them how important this project is for the City of Haverhill. They listened and really came through for us,” the mayor said. He credited success to intervention by state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Sens. Barry R. Finegold and Auditor-Elect Diana DiZoglio, Rep. Andy X. Vargas, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. elect Kim Driscoll, and Building Authority Director Jack McCarthy.
Fiorentini said Goldberg, who chairs the Massachusetts School Building Authority, was already “working on a solution for our city.”
Vargas, in his own statement, backed the mayor up, saying, he’s grateful for Treasurer Goldberg’s “leadership in prioritizing equity before we even called. Mayor Fiorentini played a critical role in building a coalition to support this outcome and I’m thrilled for our city.”
Haverhill city councilors last week signed off on a required Project Scope and Budget Agreement with the state, but balked at what they said became an estimated 44% reimbursement instead of 78% before inflation drove up construction and material costs.
Although Fiorentini said the city can afford to build the new school within its existing budget, city councilors voted 6-3 this week to ask voters to decide whether to sidestep the state’s tax limiting law, Proposition 2 ½. Proponents said the city may have little room to move financially in an emergency, especially with other school building projects coming up.
Council President Timothy J. Jordan and Councilors Michitson, Melinda E. Barrett, Thomas J. Sullivan Melissa J. Lewandowski and Michael S. McGonagle voted in favor while Councilors Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Catherine P. Rogers and Shaun P. Toohey were opposed.