HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini presented a proposed, $201.2 million city budget that represents an increase of $6.2 million, or 3.2 percent with the majority of the budget, $89 million, labeled for education, which under his budget would see a $5 million increase over last year.
"This is the fourth year in a row the education budget has increased approximately $5 million," Fiorentini said about his proposed 5.7 percent increase in school funding.
Fiorentini noted state aid to the city has increased by $4 million, to a total of $69 million in state aid, and that most of the total, $57 million, will go to schools.
"I am confident that will not be the final number, and that the state Legislature will increase that number as we go forward and they deal with the funding formula," he said.
The mayor outlined his fiscal year 2020 budget during Tuesday night's City Council meeting. Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien asked Fiorentini to bring his budget before the council prior to the Memorial Day weekend, to allow more time to review it.
Fiorentini credited using $5.1 million in surplus or "free cash" to advance the city's objectives while leaving $3.5 million in surplus and $6.2 million in stabilization funds.
"We have a total, even with using all of this, of about $10 million in reserve, about where we want to be and a far cry from where we were a few years ago when we didn't have any reserves," he said.
Fiorentini said he would bring forward his capital budget at the next council meeting to explain how he plans to use $1.5 million in free cash to fund much needed capital projects.
Capital projects include long-term expenditures for items such as new fire trucks, wastewater improvements and building maintenance.
In addition to the increase in school funding, which will provide for free all-day kindergarten, free breakfast and lunch for all students and mandatory summer school, a $400,000 increase in public safety was proposed.
Fiorentini said he negotiated with the police patrolman's union to fully staff police dispatch with civilians, putting four officers back on the streets. He also wants to hire four civilian fire dispatchers, which he said will allow four firefighters to return to their stations and reduce the fire department's "heavy overtime budget."
The budget would add inspectional services hours, increase a downtown cleaning person from a part-time to a full-time position, and provide the library with money for better services and help provide for its accreditation.
Fiorentini would also fully fund the school superintendent's request to provide for free, all-day kindergarten, free breakfast and lunch for all students, as well as mandatory summer school for eighth graders who aren't prepared for high school.
Public works would receive an $800,000 increase, allowing for an additional position, moving the downtown cleaning position from part-time to full-time, and adding more reflective crosswalk and traffic lines.
The library would see a 11.3% or $150,000 increase in its budget, allowing the library to stay open longer on Wednesdays, increase outreach opportunities, boost customer service, and as part of a two-year plan, bring the library to full funding and provide for its accreditation without having to seek a waiver.
The health and inspectional services department would receive additional funding to provide overtime hours so that inspectors can do their job after hours. An assistant director of economic development position would be created and fully funded.
Councilor William Macek said the mayor's budget sounded "good on the surface," and praised the education funding.
"I do like the fact that you've applied an ample amount of money towards education, and that we're meeting our superintendent's request, I believe, to the dollar," Macek said.
Councilor Michael McGonagle called the mayor's budget, "a good start," and asked if he planned to fund the upgrade of fire trucks and apparatus as was recommended by former acting fire chief Jack Parow.
Fiorentini said he would present a five- to 10-year capital plan that would include these types of expenditures.
"I look forward to being back next week to talk about a very exiting capital plan I think you're going to love," Fiorentini said.