Haverhill Councilors Change Date of Consentino School Special Election Because of MCAS Conflict

Architect’s rendering of proposed cafeteria at the new Dr. Albert B. Consentino School.

Although Haverhill is getting more money for construction of a new Dr. Albert B. Consentino School, the city is still going ahead with a special election—but on a different date—to let voters decide how the project should be financed.

The City Council voted last month to hold an election May 2, but last night changed the date after learning from School Superintendent Margaret Marotta the original date won’t work.

“The Superintendent brought to my attention that the date chosen by the Council is the same date as the MCAS tests. So, that date in May just won’t work. We won’t be able to use the schools (for voting),” Mayor James J. Fiorentini explained.

Although Fiorentini said the city has the ability to borrow enough money to build the school without overriding the state’s tax-limiting law, Proposition 2 ½, critics say city finances will be too restricted in an emergency.

By a vote of 7-1 councilors agreed to change the election date to Tuesday, June 6. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua, who said special elections traditionally have a much lower turnout. He argued the question should be part of the regular election in November. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle was not in attendance at the meeting.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority originally agreed to reimburse the city for part of the cost of the new school, but at an amount significantly less than the 78% expected. Although members agreed to raise reimbursements for some cities, Haverhill was not at first included. Fiorentini told the Council a team of city and state leaders made a full-court press to change that status.

“So many people stepped up to the plate—Gov. Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito, the new incoming Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, our own Rep. Andy Vargas, state Sen. Barry Finegold and so many other people,” he noted.

The mayor reiterated the state has since agreed to increase its portion by $11 million or 51% of the total cost. He said that will save taxpayers a total of $22 million over the course of the loan. He added the money will also save another $750,000 per year in operating expenses.

While lauding the efforts and the results, Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan said he planned to continue to put pressure on the state to cover the full 78% of the project’s as it originally agreed.

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