May 20, 2021 by Hilary Jenison (courtesy photos)
This week, we conclude our Candidate Question series leading up to the Local Election this Saturday, May 22. Over the past five weeks, the Anchor has been featuring a series of questions for each of the competitive election races, including Light Board, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Town Clerk, and Select Board.
We hope voters will carefully read the responses to understand each candidate better and help inform their decision-making at the polls this weekend! You can find all the candidate question responses and more information about the local election, including candidate announcements and profiles, on our Local Elections page. You can also listen to podcasts by Ally Donnelly interviewing the candidates for Town Clerk and the Select Board on The Hingham 'Cast!
This week, we connected with Liz Klein, Michelle Larned and Joe Kelly – all candidates running for the open position on the Select Board. Don't forget to get out and VOTE this Saturday!
Anchor Question: The financial forecast of Hingham over the next five years shows a significant shortfall. With all the impending capital projects (i.e. Foster School, Public Safety Building, Senior Center) in the works, and the recommendations from the new Master Plan, what are the three things you would do as a member of the Select Board in order to turn our financial situation around?
Response from Liz Klein, Candidate for Select Board:
We are at a critical moment in time when much work needs to be done to invest in our schools, preserve our financial health, manage multiple capital projects, and build a welcoming and inclusive community for all. To balance the level of services our citizens need with the increasing costs as well as realize our shared vision for Hingham, I will take the following actions:
- Analyze the Budget: To fully understand the financial situation and the necessary adjustments, I will start by reviewing all municipal and school budgets with the Advisory Committee. Another critical component is sharing our financial situation with citizens and listening to as many voices as possible. I will work to conduct a Town Financial Forum in the fall as a way to gather community input to inform the budget process. It is imperative to work collaboratively with other Committees, including the School Committee to identify critical areas for investment and areas of savings.
- Ensure Financial Policy Matches our Values: I commit to working closely with the Advisory Committee to evaluate and make any necessary adjustments to the Town Financial Policy. This will be an open process in which public comment will be solicited and incorporated. Also, I will work with the Select Board to create an Override Study Committee including defining the scope and making volunteer appointments so we can best utilize the override tool as part of our strategy, allowed under Prop 2.5. It is important that our financial execution match our Towns’ values addressing the needs of all citizens, including seniors and public safety.
- Creatively Develop Revenue Sources: The services and capital projects citizens need and deserve are continuing to grow as well as the costs. I will take action to proactively assess how we maximize the expected additional American Rescue Plan funds, support Town staff to effectively address development proposals, work with our state legislature on regional opportunities as well as federal, state, county grants, and collaborate with business owners, restaurant owners, and the Hingham Downtown Association to not only support their success, but also grow revenue through meals tax.
Response from Michelle Larned, Candidate for Select Board:
This forecasted shortfall did not appear out of nowhere. It is a result of many town decisions over several years. These decisions mean we are now going to have to dig a little deeper to fund the needs of the town.
The first place I would look is how we can increase housing options in Hingham. There are many ways that we can increase the housing inventory which include housing that is affordable to lower income individuals and young families. When we add housing, we add revenue, not just from taxes but from people who consume the resources in our community.
Second is that we should focus on additional grant applications to offset some of the costs. Committees like the new Climate Action Planning Committee or the Tree Preservation committee should be supported in finding grant applications, so they do not require funding from the town.
Thirdly is looking at school funding. I believe that consistently the school committee having to consistently eliminate things from their budget is having a significant effect on our school performance. Many people move here for strong schools, but they will also move away or send their children elsewhere if their needs are not met. We benefit financially by protecting the values of our homes as well as by having educated citizens who will be making our town decisions very soon.
Funding some of these needs means we may need to reconsider or “rainy day fund.” I think we need to look at our budget policy and our insistence on the AAA bond rating. The difference in interest rate for us compared to AA+ community is negligible and using our fund balance doesn’t automatically mean we lose the AAA bond rating.
We shouldn’t have money sitting in the bank when we can pay for the needs of our students. Every time a family chooses to educate their children elsewhere or we pay to send their children elsewhere, this impacts our schools.
Re-evaluating our approach to our budgets isn’t a bad thing, and with the forecasted shortfalls, it is exactly what we need.
Response from Joe Kelly, Candidate for Select Board:
When it comes to funding the town budget and many of the capital projects there is no funding method that is off the table.
I have made clear from the start of this campaign that my goal will be to bring our county, state, and federal governments to the table to work through our financial deficits in the next 3 years and beyond. The town of Hingham simply cannot go at it alone. Additionally, we need to take a look at spending in each department and how we can consolidate spending and increase our purchase power for deeper discounts from vendors. Lastly, we need a grant writer. There is money available, but we need to ask for it.
The Master Plan has very thoughtfully put forward a blueprint for the future of Hingham. While, I share many of the committee's goals, I am concerned about the cost of some of the projects that are presented in the master plan. Hingham has become unaffordable for most families and increasing taxes will make Hingham less affordable for seniors and middle class families making diversity and inclusion near impossible.