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Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini's Monthly Newsletter
December 2005

To the Wonderful People of Haverhill

Thank you for the confidence you have shown in my administration and me by your vote in the recent election. I am honored and humbled by the vote. I will work as hard as I can to keep your confidence over the next two years.

If there is ever a time you feel I could be serving you better, please do not hesitate to contact me personally.

Thank you again,

Sincerely, Jim Fiorentini

Haverhill’s Bond Rating

Our bond Rating up AGAIN. This shows that Haverhill is on the right track, but we have a long way to go.

The bond rating determines how much a city will pay in interest when it borrows money and is the fiscal report card for a city.

Two years ago, our bond rating sunk to one notch above junk bond status. Now, Standard and Poor’s has raised our bond rating again, this time from BBB- to BBB.

The improvement shows that we are on the right track in tackling our fiscal problems but we still have a long way to go towards fiscal stability. It saves us $20,000 immediately and much more in the long run.

However, the rating of BBB is not where we want to be. We should be an A-rated city.

In raising the bond rating, here is what the credit rating agency said: “Haverhill’s new management team, including its current mayor, who is entering his second term, and the finance director, has adopted numerous financial policies and budget practices in the wake of the budgetary stress caused by Hale Hospital’s operating deficits and state aid cuts in fiscals 2003 and 2004.

Although new, Haverhill’s management has indicated an eagerness to follow policies and procedures in place that offer an opportunity for long-term budgetary structural balance.” Many people deserve credit for the bond rating going up. These include the many fine employees of our city who have had to work longer and harder, pay more on their health insurance premiums and do without pay raises for the past two years. Their hard work and sacrifice has helped put the city back on the path towards fiscal stability.

Crime Hot Spot Policy Seems To Bear Fruit

After a flurry of gang related violence this summer, the city reacted quickly. The city set up a Gang Task force, joined an area Federal and State gang task force, instituted neighborhood meetings, arrested numerous people involved in gang related activity, and instituted more police patrols in high crime neighborhoods. One of the things the task force brought out was the need for more cooperation between Lawrence and Haverhill detectives.

The policy seems to be bearing fruit. According to an article in a local newspaper, neighbors said the increased patrols definitely made a difference in their neighborhoods.

The name for this type of police policy is hot spot policing: concentrating police on areas where there are large numbers of crimes at certain times.

There has been a good deal of empirical research about alternative policing methods. The best summary I can locate is entitled Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising by Professor Lawrence Sherman, for the National Institute of Justice. See ncjrs.org/works/index.htm. Here are some quotes from the study: “Hiring more police to provide rapid 911 responses, unfocused random patrol, and reactive arrests does not prevent serious crime. Community policing without a clear focus on crime risk factors generally shows no effect on crime. But directed patrols, proactive arrests and problem-solving at high-crime hot spots has shown substantial evidence of crime prevention….” See ncjrs.org/works/chapter8.htm .

No one really knows what causes crime to go up and down but we are happy it is going down in Haverhill.

Heat Bills

When I travel around, people tell me that one of their prime concerns is the rising cost of heating fuel.

A new bill passed by the legislature allows tax breaks for homeowners with high heating bills. Taxpayers earning less than $50,000 as single filers or $75,000 if filing jointly will be able to deduct up to $800 for oil or natural gas heating bills incurred between Nov. 1 and March 31, 2006.

The same law also provides one-time tax credits for homeowners who buy energy-efficient appliances.

Here are some web sites for more information:

boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/
articles/2005/11/22/romney_house_senate
_leaders_celebrate_new_energy_bills/

A good source of information and charts is mass.gov/dhcd/components/cs/Fuel/default.htm.

Tax Rate Going Down, Tax Bills Going Up

There is good news and bad news about our real estate tax bills. The good news is that the tax rate is going down, slightly, for both commercial and residential users. The bad news is that the tax bill, the only thing we care about, is going up.

The reason is that taxes are a multiple of the value of your home times the tax rate. If the value of your home goes up, then your taxes go up. In Haverhill, as in most of this portion of the country, the average residential house value went up. Values went up around 6% in one year in Haverhill. Commercial and industrial values also went up, but by a lower rate. The result is that tax bills are up, on average $159.

However, averages can be deceiving. Your home value may not be the average and your increase may be much more, or much less, than the average.

You will get the new tax bill around the first of the year. You can pay your bill on line and get a good deal of information from our web site,  ci.haverhill.ma.us. If you believe your tax bill is too high, you can you check out similar properties at haverhill.patriotproperties.com/default.asp or by a link from the assessor’s web page at ci.haverhill.ma.us/departments/finance/assessor/index.htm. If you want to file for abatement, you can download the form at the same page.

Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees: The fourth annual Festival of Trees ran from November 25th through December 4th at the Haverhill Historical Society, 240 Water St. The event was a huge success again this year.

Christmas stroll:Join us this Friday from 5 to the kids to meet –9 PM downtown for the annual Christmas Stroll. Bring Santa, to sing along with all of us, and to generally have a good time. I always find the stroll a time to meet with my neighbors; It is how Christmas used to be when we all went downtown to shop—before the malls.

Happy Holidays

From my family to yours, our best wishes for a great holiday season. Please stop by the Mayors office on December 15h from noon to 2 PM for the Mayor’s annual holiday party to greet the public.

Feedback wanted

I am going to work harder on getting feedback from the public in my next term. Iways: by ’ll do this in several neighborhood meetings, by having focus groups that meet with me for a brown bag luncheon series on various topics (I am having one on WIFI, on downtown cleanliness, and other topics) and by asking for feedback more in this newsletter. Take a moment to fill this out and tell us how we are doing as a city:

Taxes

Taxes are going up an average of $159 per household. Is this: About what you expected for an increase.

More than you expected for an increase.

Less than you expected for an increase.

If you had the money to improve service in one area and only one area, what area would you have us improve it:
Add one or two more school teachers

Add one or two more policemen

Add one or two more firemen

Add one or two more people to the highway department

Reduce taxes by the amount and give us a small break

Other:

No fair saying all of above.

Trivia

Now that I got the question right, many of you got the answer right! The answer is that Blue and White was the color of St. James High School. Among those who knew were newly elected city councilor Dave Swartz, (a graduate of St. James High School), my sainted mother, Lucy Fiorentini (who attended St. James grammar school); John J. Ryan III, JOEFEO, Ric Page, Bill Lappiere, my favorite aunt Helen Sullivan, and others.

Here is this monthHaverhill stadium, a ’s question: We all know that Haverhill High School graduation is held at the stadium we hope can be renovated with the money we are getting from the State.

Where was graduation held before it was at the stadium?

Till next month, if I can be of service, or if you can think of ways to improve service in our city, do not hesitate to contact me or, please stop by for our office hours, Tuesday from 3 to 4 PM.

Have a great Christmas.

Jim Fiorentini is the mayor of Haverhill and was just elected to his second term. Mayor Fiorentini is a Democrat. No public money was used to produce or distribute his newsletter. You can E-mail Jim Fiorentini at: jimfior02@aol.com

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The December Edition of the Valley Patriot
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