HAVERHILL (CBS) – This weekend Haverhill parents are taking to street corners rallying support for a tax to fund construction of a new middle school.

They’re hoping voters will approve a referendum Tuesday that extends a tax enacted years ago to build four elementary schools.

The previous tax increase is set to expire, but according to city officials, preserving that tax rate is the best chance they have at raising money to replace Hunking Middle School.

“I’m very worried that my kids won’t have a safe place to go to school,” said mother Karen Peugh who is organizing support for the tax vote.

The Hunking School’s problems are historic and well documented. The 50-year-old building has cracked foundation columns and floors. Three engineering firms deemed the building structurally unsafe, forcing closure of half the school and the relocation of half the students.  Long-standing mold and ventilation problems prompted experts to suggest the windows stay open year-round.

“The reality is, if we don’t address this now, it’s going to be more costly to the city,” said School Superintendent James Scully.

Scully, Mayor James Fiorentini, School Committee members, city councilors and state representatives all joined the rally in front of a Market Basket on Saturday morning. Dozens of parents from schools all over the city held signs and spoke to residents about the importance of Tuesday’s vote.

If this referendum fails, residents worry about not only the effect on students but also the impact on property values from more crowded middle schools.

The cost of a new school is about $60 million. The state has agreed to pick up 74 percent of the cost of construction.  The remaining funds – about $20 million when you add in things such as operating expenses – could hinge on the parents’ ability to turn around voter apathy.  In recent years the city has voted down similar proposals on other schools.

Approving the tax extension won’t raise taxes, but would keep them at the current levels until the city can pay for the new Hunking Middle School.



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