hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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April 3, 2014

Hunking vote set for June 10

Officials: Debt exclusion key to city's future, but won't be easy sell

HAVERHILL — The date has been set.

City Council has scheduled an election June 10 to ask voters to temporarily raise property taxes to pay the city’s estimated $24 million share of a $61.5 million new Hunking School.

The state has agreed to pay the balance for a 1,005-student building in the city’s Bradford section that will serve students in kindergarten to grade eight. It is to be next to the existing school.

Dozens of parents, students and school and city officials packed a standing-room-only City Council meeting March 25 to support the plan, many wearing stickers bearing the slogan “Haverhill for Hunking: Vote Yes for School Success.”

In late 2011, the city closed half of Hunking Middle School due to fears a portion of the building could collapse. About 150 students were sent to another school due to structural problems. Repairs were made and the students were eventually moved back to Hunking, but the building is expected to be usable for only two or three more years.

The council also approved the wording for the ballot question, but it does not specify the cost of the new school or the city’s portion.

Mayor James Fiorentini said state law does not allow that information on the ballot, but that he would going back to the council in a few weeks to set the amount and pass a bond order, which will authorize the city to borrow a specific amount of money. The city’s share is expected to be around $24 million, pending final approval of the new school’s budget and design by state officials June 4.

“We are committed, in so far as it is possible, to build this school within the limits of expiring debt exclusions for four schools built 20 years ago — Bradford, Silver Hill, Golden Hill and Pentucket Lake elementary schools,” the mayor said.

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