EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

September 17, 2013

Scully pitches for new school

Some councilors question why $61.5M plan favored

(Continued)

"I went to the meeting expecting to hear a debate over options for the replacement school," Councilor John Michitson said about the meeting. "Instead, only one choice was presented."

In late 2011, the city closed part of the Hunking and moved about 150 students to another school due to structural problems in the Hunking foundation which threatened to collapse part of the building. Repairs have since been made, but the building is expected to be usable for only a few more years. About 450 students attend the existing grade-six-to-eight-school.

Scully, other school officials and the architect have said replacing Hunking with a new kindergarten-to-grade-eight-school would allow the city to close the outdated and deteriorated Greenleaf School and relieve overcrowding at Bradford Elementary School as well as other city schools.

"This process is being directed by the (state) School Building Authority, and myself and the architects are doing our best to comply with that process," Scully said. "My job is to recommend what I think is best for kids and the school district and that's what I have done. But in the end, the decision on the size and cost of the new school rests with the state.

The council has no official role in developing the new school proposal, but councilors must eventually approve asking voters to pay the city's share of the cost, which has been set at a limit of $24 million. The debt-exclusion vote is the last step in the process and is expected to happen by early spring.

The mayor has said the proposed debt exclusion won't increase taxes because current payments on the debt for two 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, officials said.

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