HAVERHILL — City Council took the first step last night to approving $61.5 million to build a new and larger Hunking School.
The council formally received Mayor James Fiorentini’s request to borrow the money, and set aside the request until its June 3 meeting.
Councilors expect to approve the borrowing measure at that meeting, contingent on voters passing a Proposition 2-1/2 override at a citywide election a week later June 10.
The override, if approved, will allow the city to temporarily raise property taxes to pay the city’s estimated $24 million share of the project. The state has agreed to pay the balance for a 1,005-student building in the city’s Bradford section that will serve children in kindergarten to grade eight. It is to be next to the existing school.
The wording on the ballot will be as follows: “Shall the city of Haverhill be allowed to exempt from the provisions of Proposition two and a half, so called, the amounts required to pay for the bond issued in order to finance construction and/or reconstruction of the Caleb Dustin Hunking School.”
A “yes” vote supports borrowing the money to build the new school; a “no” vote opposes borrowing the money.
The project is expected to increase taxes by about $70 per year for 20 years for the average homeowner.
Supporters of the override proposition have been canvassing the city, talking to potential voters and handing out campaign literature.
City Council President John Michitson has been campaigning with the “Haverhill for Hunking” group. He said they recently begin visiting homes on the other side of the Merrimack River, opposite the Bradford side of the river. The group is also planning several mailings, Michitson said.
In late 2011, the city closed half of Hunking Middle School due to fears a portion of the building could collapse. About 150 students were sent to another school due to structural problems. Repairs were made and the students were eventually moved back to Hunking, but the building is expected to be usable for only two or three more years.