EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 6, 2014

State OKs extra $3M for new Hunking School

Voters decide Tuesday whetherto pay Haverhill's $21M portion

HAVERHILL — As voters prepare to head to the polls Tuesday, the state has agreed to pay $3 million more for a new school than local officials anticipated.

The School Building Authority Board voted Wednesday to pay 65.6 percent, or about $40 million, of the proposed school’s $61.5 million cost, Superintendent James Scully said. The building would replace the deteriorated Hunking School.

Voters will be asked at a citywide election Tuesday to pass a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion that will allow the city to temporarily increase property taxes to raise Haverhill’s roughly $21 million share of the project.

The school, for 1,005 students in kindergarten to grade eight, is to be built next door to the existing building in the city’s Bradford section.

Haverhill received an extra 4.2 percent on top of its base reimbursement rate in exchange for agreeing to use environmentally sensitive building methods and an approved construction risk manager, as well as providing a building maintenance plan, according to a School Department press release.

The average cost for a kindergarten-to-grade-eight school in Massachusetts is $320 to $380 per square foot, while the proposed 147,996-square-foot school comes in at $338 per square foot, Scully said.

“The MSBA staff commended the Hunking School schematic design for its efficient use of space and compact configuration, noting the layout will make it more efficient to operate,” Scully said of this week’s state meeting and vote.

The new school is to be divided into an upper school for grades five to eight and a lower school for kindergarten to grade four, with a shared gymnasium, cafeteria, media center and administrative offices.

If approved, the project will increase taxes by about $70 per year for 20 years for the average homeowner, Mayor James Fiorentini said. The mayor has said there will no impact on tax bills, however, because an old debt exclusion for previously built schools is about to expire. The previous debt exclusion added the same $70 to the average tax bill, he said. When it expires, the new tax increase would take its place, he said.

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