Haverhill’s Special Election Today Decides Which Method is Used to Pay for Consentino School

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

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It is special election day in Haverhill as voters decide whether to support paying for the new Dr. Albert B. Consentino School through a debt exclusion.

Assistant City Clerk Rose Leonard-Flynn told WHAV “just a little over 3,000” residents already voted during last week’s early voting period. Today, registered voters who haven’t yet cast a ballot may go to their standard polling locations with one exception. Residents of Ward 1, Precinct 1 will vote today at Consentino School, 685 Washington St., since their regular location at Veterans Northeast Outreach Center is undergoing construction.

The ballot question asks, “Shall the city of Haverhill be allowed to exempt from the provisions of Proposition two and one-half, so called, the amounts required to pay costs of constructing a new Dr. Albert B. Consentino Middle School located at 685 Washington St. in Haverhill, Mass., including the payment of all costs related to designing the project, demolishing the existing building, equipping and furnishing the school, site improvements and all other costs incidental and related thereto?”

A citizen committee, “Yes for Consentino,” was organized in January to advocate for an override of the state’s tax-limiting law to allow the school to be built through a debt exclusion. Co-Chair Nathan Hartwell previously told WHAV the alternative method of paying for the school “provides the financial flexibility for us to invest in our schools and city services. It’ll allow the city to succeed and grow.”

Hartwell shares the chairmanship with Joanna Dix and Carmen Garcia-King. He explained the campaign in favor of an override is being “very transparent and clear” that this is not a question of whether or not the city will build a Consentino School, but rather “how to responsibly pay for that and not negatively impact other schools and other city services.”

There is no organized opposition to the ballot question.

Last December, Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini opposed the idea of a debt exclusion, and referred to himself as the skunk at a lawn party. He said, “Putting this on the ballot is going to make it more difficult to pass future projects.” However, in April, Fiorentini said on his YouTube channel that he plans to vote in favor of the debt exclusion to build the $160 million replacement school.

“This school means so much to me that no matter how the debt exclusion vote turns out on June 6, this school is going to be going forward. I’m going to be voting for the debt exclusion. You need to decide for yourself if you want to vote for it,” the mayor said in part.

While supposedly still in support, the mayor sent a mixed message to residents in an email yesterday. He wrote “Taxes go up either way. They go up a little more with a yes vote than a no vote.”

The city included $8 million of the Consentino cost in a $10.9 million loan it took out last month.

Polls are open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

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