EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

September 22, 2013

Leaders take new school pitch to the public

Voters must approve Haverhill's $24M share of the cost

HAVERHILL — Now that local leaders agree to a plan for a new 1,005-student school, officials are taking their pitch to the public.

For the school to be built, voters must agree to pay Haverhill's $24 million share of the estimated $61.5 million cost. The state is expected to pay the rest, local officials said.

The school is expected to be built on playing fields next to the deteriorated Hunking Middle School in the city's Bradford section.

Superintendent James Scully said public informational meetings for parents and other residents will be held Wednesday at Silver Hill Elementary School and Oct. 2 at Bradford Elementary, both at 6:30 p.m.

"They are part of our ongoing effort to keep everyone informed of what's going on, where we are headed and why," Scully said of the meetings.

Mayor James Fiorentini said voters will be asked to approve paying the city's cost through a debt exclusion. He said that vote will come soon after the state School Building Authority approves the scope and budget for the new school on April 2. The school would house students in kindergarten to grade eight.

Fiorentini said the proposed debt exclusion won't increase taxes because current payments on the debt for elementary schools built almost 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.

Councilor John Michitson said it's inaccurate to say the debt exclusion won't increase property taxes, however.

"This might be politically unpopular to say, but I'd just like us to say it's going to cost this amount of money and it's going to increase taxes, but we think it's worth it," Michitson said.

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