To the editor:
Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini plans to “pay for a new Consentino School without raising taxes” (Eagle Tribune, Nov. 8). Schools without taxes – what’s the catch? The mayor says that, as the Hale Hospital debt is paid off, the city would redirect those funds toward school building costs and, presumably, school bonds. This would make those funds unavailable for school operations and other municipal services.
Many cities choose to fund such capital expenses over their state-imposed levy limit through a debt exclusion, as Haverhill did for the Hunking School. The mayor’s plan for Consentino would avoid the need for a referendum, but the likely consequences are disturbing.
When the city assumed the Hale Hospital debt in 2002, Haverhill chose to curtail operational expenses for schools and other city services rather than increase taxes. In ranking by per-pupil expenditures, Haverhill Public Schools slipped from 199th to 354th among Massachusetts school districts.
Mayor Fiorentini now proposes to lock in low spending levels for the foreseeable future by committing freed-up Hale debt funds to long-term capital expenses, rather than critical operational needs. The mayor’s approach would effectively extend the damage of the Hale debt on city services into future decades.
Haverhill leaders should give voters the choice to fund a new Consentino School, fully comparable to the Hunking School, through a debt exclusion that would preserve funds for school and municipal operations long-neglected since the Hale debt was assumed.