HAVERHILL — It’s Election Day in Haverhill.
Voters are deciding whether to temporarily increase their property taxes to pay the city’s $21 million share of a $61.5 million building to replace the deteriorated Hunking Middle School in the city’s Bradford section.
The state School Building Authority Board voted last week to contribute $40 million for the project — $3 million more than the city originally expected.
City Clerk Linda Koutoulas said she expects about 12 percent of the city’s approximately 41,500 registered voters to cast a ballot today. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Koutoulas said about 220 voters have requested absentee ballots for today’s election, mostly elderly residents in nursing homes and Bradford residents.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the debt exclusion would add about $71 per year for 20 years to the average property tax bill. But he said tax bills won’t increase because an old debt exclusion for two schools built many years ago will expire around the same time the city would start paying the new Hunking loan.
The proposed school for up to 1,005 students in kindergarten to grade eight is to be built next to the existing building. Construction would begin in the spring and the new school would open two years later.
If the debt exclusion fails, officials said the city will have to chose from a variety of poor and temporary alternatives. Those options, the mayor said, include more temporary repairs to the existing building, buying or renting portable classrooms, or busing students to already crowded schools in other parts of the city.
School Superintendent James Scully said the new school won’t just benefit Bradford, but would also bring an end to overcrowding in other Haverhill schools. He said it would also allow Haverhill to avoid sinking more money into repairing Hunking, as well as the aging Greenleaf Elementary School, which is also in Bradford.