Mayor James Fiorentini wants to give schools $5 million more than they had last year — providing free meals for students and creating free all-day kindergarten across Haverhill.
The $201.2 million proposed budget that the mayor presented to City Council last week is an increase of $6.2 million, or 3.2 percent, over last year's budget.
Fiorentini's plan calls for schools to receive $89 million in total — a $5 million increase for education compared to 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.
He said the additional school money will provide for free all-day kindergarten, free breakfast and lunch for all students, and mandatory summer school.
Fiorentini noted state aid to the city has increased by $4 million, to a total of $69 million, and that most of the total 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," he said.
The mayor outlined his fiscal year 2020 proposed budget during last Tuesday night's City Council meeting. The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June of next year. Councilors will review the mayor's proposal to determine they want to make changes.
Fiorentini said the budget has plenty of money set aside for emergencies.
"We have a total ... 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 pay for much needed capital projects. Capital projects include long-term expenditures for items such as new fire trucks, wastewater improvements and maintenance of buildings.
In addition to the increase in school funding, the budget includes a proposed $400,000 increase in public safety spending.
Fiorentini said he negotiated with the police patrolman's union to fully staff the dispatch desk 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, the mayor said.
Fiorentini would also fully fund the school superintendent's request to provide the 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 building 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 city's Health and Inspectional Services Department would receive additional money to provide overtime hours so that inspectors can do their job after regular hours, when needed. 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.