A lot has changed in that
one year. Today, our library is open, our fire station is open,
our budget is balanced and the talk of receivership is over.
Our bond rating did not slip, our bond outlook went up. We balanced
our budget without a single layoff. To put it succinctly: Haverhill
All of this took a good deal
of hard work, a good deal of cooperation from a lot of people
and it took a good deal of teamwork Some of the plans that were
instituted were not popular: no one cares if you consolidate
departments, but when we took some city functions, put them into
water and waste water and then raised rates to pay for them,
people cared indeed. It took votes of the city council to implement
all of this, and I want to thank them publicly and acknowledge
their role in turning this around.
Our legislative delegation
worked hard to gain us more money.
Our unions worked with us
to consolidate health care plans, and change the number of optimism
available from 5 plans to 1 plan saving us $600,000 a year, thank
Our employees, who worked
a little harder and a little longer to make reorganization work.
Our work force today is 17% lower than it was 2 years ago, and
our reorganization saved us another $600,000 year. It was our
employees who made this happen and I want to thank them.
I am happy to report that
today, the municipal outlook for Haverhill is still guarded,
but the light that shines on Haverhill is much brighter today
than it was one year ago. Our MCAS scores are up, are school
standardized tests are up. Our real estate values are skyrocketing,
even as some surrounding communities showed a decrease in values.
Haverhill was noted as one of the fastest growing communities
in the State. For all of our problems, Haverhill remains a destination
city. People want to live here, work here and dine here.
But even with all that we
have done, even with all the progress that we have made, Haverhill
still remains a city with deep rooted structural economic problems.
We must still pay, at the start of every year, a Hale debt of
$6.5 million for a hospital that we no longer own. We still face
health care costs that are rising at the rate of 9-15% per year,
and folks, you do not have to be an economist to figure this:
if health care costs go up by 10%, and taxes go up by 2 and half
percent, you are going to have a problem. This administration
has made health care reform a priority and that priority will
The Hale debt remains with
us, it remains a pressing problem and it is not going to disappear.
It is a long term structural problemnot a one time problem
and it can be solved only with a long term structural solution,
not with one time solutions.
Last year, our State legislative
delegation went to bat for us, and obtained money to get us through
the year. They did the same the year before that and I am confident,
hopeful that they can help us again this year. We thank our legislators
for their support and we need your continued support to keep
Haverhill afloat. We need support too from the Romney administration.
We need the Romney administration to step up to the plate with
long term structural relief.
Well continue to lobby
for State aid, and for Federal assistance.
But this can not be all that
we do. Part of the solution has to come from within.
We have reorganized, we have
made cuts and that will continue, but there has to be more. In
my wildest dreams I know that we are not going to get $7 million
a year in additional State aid and not matter how hard we try,
we are not going to achieve anything close to that in real dollar
savings through efficiencies, concessions, health care concessions
and all other cuts. We are not going to cut our way out of this.
We have to grow our way out of it.
Part of our solution is that
we need to expand our tax base.
For commercial and industrial
growth, we will continue to work to speed up permitting and make
it clear that Haverhill is a city that welcomes and wants your
We also have to make a concerted
effort to bring in more affordable housing, and to make housing
Last year, the good news is
that Haverhill continues to be a destination city. Housing values
rose 12% in just one year, and 30% over three years. People are
flocking to move here and over the past two years, we
were one of the fastest growing communities in the State.
Thats the good news.
The bad news is that real estate property values are rising rapidly
and we risk becoming a city that is unaffordable. The average
house price in Haverhill is now $300,000it seems only yesterday
that I bought my house for $37,000. We are rapidly, all too rapidly,
becoming a city where our own children and grandchildren can
not afford to live here or to buy a house here.
This year, my administration
will redouble its efforts to build more housing downtown and
reuse old mill buildings as housing space. We will redouble our
efforts to bring housing to the center of our city where we have
the infrastructure to support it, and we will redouble our efforts
to make the American dream come true for more of our families
here in Haverhill. So long as a single family is left behind,
Haverhill can be said to have progressed.
Thank you and I look forward
to working with you this year.
*Source: City of Haverhill,
Massachusetts Web Site: www.ci.haverhill.ma.us 2-16-05