So a debt exclusion vote and a 'range' of $25-50 million? Wow - this is a bad time to ask actual property tax payers for more...- your thoughts? - COB
HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini does not have a challenger in this year’s election, but he’s still gearing up for a campaign.
Fiorentini is organizing his political machine to campaign for voters to approve a new school. It would be located in Bradford and replace the 50-year-old Hunking School, which is deteriorating and is expected to be useful for another three years, at most.
In an email to his supporters, Fiorentini said with him facing no challenger in his effort to land a sixth term, a record for a Haverhill mayor, he wants their focus to turn to the new school.
“With no opposition, I can concentrate some of my efforts on the upcoming campaign to build a new school in the Bradford section,” the email read.
“To make this happen, we need to put together a door to door grass roots campaign,” the email continued. “We need to be in every neighborhood, in every ward and in every precinct. This is not just about Bradford, it is about our entire city moving forward and making education better for all.”
Haverhill is in line for state money to pay about two-thirds of the cost of a new school. To get that money, the city’s voters must approve paying the remaining cost.
Voters will go to the polls in the spring to decide whether they are willing to spend Haverhill’s share.
Fiorentini has said voters will be asked not to accept a tax increase beyond what they spend now. Instead, if they approve the project, they would continue paying the same amount of taxes they now pay on past school construction projects, which have loans that are about to be paid off by the city.
The cost of the new school would remain on tax bills for a limited number of years through a debt exclusion, not as a permanent tax increase. Details of the plan, including the number of years the debt exclusion would last, will be released before voters go to the polls, city officials said.
Architects said there are two scenarios for dealing with the Hunking School deterioration — build a new school or demolish the sections of Hunking that are failing and rebuild them.
School officials have said building a new school is the most cost-effective plan, and would provide a building that will be useful for a century.
The new Hunking School will cost between $25 million and $50 million, is likely to include multiple levels and should be built in place of or next to the existing building, the architects for the project have said.
The cost of the new building is contingent on the number of grades it will be built to accommodate, which the School Committee is expected to decide next month, Superintendent James Scully said.
Fiorentini stressed in his email to campaign workers that it is important to start working immediately for voter support of the new school.
“The vote for the school will be next spring but the time to start is now,” he said in the email.
“It will take months, it is a marathon, not a sprint, and organizational efforts take time, effort and money.”
In late 2011, the city closed part of the Hunking and moved about 150 students to another school due to structural problems in Hunking’s foundation that threatened to collapse part of the building.
Repairs have since been made, but the building is expected to be usable for only three more years.
Scully favors the largest option for a new school: A kindergarten-to-grade eight building accommodating about 1,000 students.
That option would allow the city to close the outdated and deteriorated Greenleaf School and relieve overcrowding at Bradford Elementary School.
Other options include using the new building as a middle school or converting it to an elementary school.