EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 4, 2013

Mayor: Time to improve parks, hire more police

$162.6M budget calls for better recreation, public safety

HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini said the city is in the best financial shape since the economic downturn began in 2008, and that his new spending plan reflects the turnaround by restoring a number of positions and programs eliminated over the last decade.

Fiorentini’s $162.6 million proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is up about 8.2 million, or 5.4 percent, compared to this year’s budget.

The mayor’s proposal includes money to hire three more police officers, make improvements to city parks and playgrounds, open the public library on Sunday for the first time in more than a decade and add new public works and recreation workers.

The budget also includes the customary 21/2 percent property tax increase that is allowed annually by law. Increasing taxes more than that amount in a given year would require voters to approve a Proposition 21/2 override.

The budget, which the mayor is set to unveil at tonight’s City Council meeting, increases the city and state contribution to public education by $4 million — mostly to cover salary increases and rising special education costs and to improve and expand school bus routes.

Fiorentini said his school proposal represents the most the city has ever spent on education in a single year.

Other areas of notable increased spending include $700,000 for pensions and $500,000 for employee health care costs.

A total of $100,000 is dedicated to improvements at Riverside and Winnekenni parks and the Plug Pond recreational area.

The money is to be used to renovate restrooms, add new playground equipment and benches, and provide better general maintenance, the mayor said.

There’s also more money in the mayor’s budget for street sweeping, tree planting and pothole patching, he said.

Fiorentini’s plan relies on a $3 million increase in school aid from the state and another $2.4 million in special state aid to help Haverhill pay its annual debt on the former city-owned Hale Hospital.

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