The mayor said he has steadfastly opposed raising taxes in a given year more than the 2 1/2 percent that is allowed without overriding the Proposition 2 1/2 law. He said this has been the case during his 10 years as mayor, even when many people said an override was needed due to the city’s annual debt on the former city-owned Hale Hospital. That debt has ranged from $7 million to $10 million per year over the last decade.
“I have resisted calls for an override for police and many other critical needs, and if there were any other way to fix the Hunking problem, I would not support this,” Fiorentini said of the proposed debt exclusion. “But there is no other way.”
An override increases property taxes permanently, while a debt exclusion hikes taxes for a limited amount of a time for a specific project or item, in this case a school. When the school is paid for, the tax increase will come off the tax rolls, in this case in 20 years.
The mayor said the city’s other options are bad if the debt exclusion fails.
“We will have to bus kids all over the city, do temporary repairs or bring in temporary classrooms, all of which are extremely expensive and none of which are a permanent solution,” Fiorentini said.
The mayor said tomorrow’s election is a one-time opportunity and that he won’t support putting the debt exclusion on the ballot again if it fails.
“Tuesday we can take a step to increase property values and improve the city’s image,” he said. “I hope people join me in voting yes, but I’ll respect the will of the voters.”
School Superintendent James Scully stressed 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 Haverhill had molded into a school but was originally built in 1884 as a town hall for the Bradford area.