Several parents at the meeting said they were encouraged by what they heard.
“I was very impressed with the presentation and I’m optimistic about the comments I heard from councilors,” said Dena Papanikolaou, who has two children at Hunking. “It’s time for our leaders to step up to the plate on this and I think I saw that start tonight.
“Conditions at Hunking are awful and it’s unconscionable to be teaching students in the basement at Greenleaf,” she said, referring to the fact that the library, cafeteria and bathrooms are in the basement at Greenleaf School.
“It’s an amazing plan,” parent Alexandra Alvino said of last night’s pitch. “I just hope the rest of Haverhill sees it and gets off the money.”
Officials said the city must pay $24 million toward the new school, with the state paying the rest. Voters must approve the city’s end by passing a debt exclusion in the spring allowing Haverhill to pay its share of the cost for 20 years.
Mayor James Fiorentini has said the proposed debt exclusion won’t increase taxes because current payments on the debt for elementary schools built about 20 years ago are about to expire. He said the plan is to continue those payments for another 20 years to pay for the Hunking replacement. Taxpayers, however, still must vote to extend those payments, which currently amount to $67 a year for the average homeowner, the mayor said.
Councilors acknowledged it’s going to be a tough sell despite the critical need for a new school.
“Your challenge is going to be convincing the public that they should agree to pay a little more taxes for the greater good,” Councilor Michael Hart told Scully.