March 31, 2023 By Glenn Mangurian
Stew·ard·ship: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care
Why? A “Yes” Vote Is Compelling
I’m voting YES on the Override question at Town Meeting and at the ballot. I urge you to join me to sustain the strong and vibrant town we enjoy today and invest in the Hingham we want for tomorrow. The Override tax increase will be about $180 per quarterly payment period for the median assessed property ($898,850). Remember, most of this deferred Override is to pay for services we approved two years ago and for which are currently benefiting. Reversing our previous decisions and eliminating up to 65 positions would likely set the town back a decade, revert many current services to unmet and send a very negative message about our values. As Hingham stewards, it is our responsibility to sustain and pay for our current service levels and build for our future.
Over a Decade of Conservative Financial Management, But Accumulating Unmet Needs
The last Hingham operational override was in 2010 – almost a generation ago. Since that time, we have benefited from very modest tax increases as a result of conservative budgeting, new growth and increased local revenues. In addition to modest tax increases, we have experienced over a decade of revenue surpluses that built up Hingham’s “Rainy Day Fund” beyond the town’s financial policy. The Unfunded needs were deferred and accumulated even when there was excess revenue available to fund more.
Covid Surfaced Vulnerabilities in Town Services
Like most cities and towns around the country, the Covid pandemic disrupted business as usual and surfaced existing vulnerabilities and created new needs. This disruption was experienced across town services and was most evident in our schools. Data showed that learning loss occurred at all grades and the achievement gap grew for children with high needs and special needs. Many pre-Covid social/emotional and mental health challenges in children at all ages worsened and some continue today.
Needed Override Deferred for Two Years
At some point in time the deferred unmet needs (both operating budget and major infrastructure projects) required attention. That time came in FY22 and FY23 when the Town Meeting approved increased operating budgets as well as funding the Foster School and Public Safety capital projects. Since FY22, the Advisory Committee and Select Board recommended and Town Meeting approved deferring the Override for two years using one-time Federal and “Rainy Day” Funds to balance our budgets. Now is the time to pay for the operating budgets that we have previously approved. For FY24, the Override tax impact for the median assessed property ($898,850) will be about $180 per quarterly payment period.
Override Tax Impact Is Affordable for Most; Relief Is Available for Many in Need
For many of us the Override tax increase is affordable when viewed in the historical context of Hingham operating within the Prop. 2½ constraints from FY10 to FY23. That’s over thirteen years with only modest tax increases. The Sustainable Budget Task Force reported that Hingham has considered only two Overrides between 2000 and 2022 while the average number of Overrides among our twenty peer communities was six. The Override increases are small especially when compared to the recent large property value increases. For example, the Assessors’ Office reports that the median property assessment has increased by 22% in just the past five years. Many households have grown even faster.
The town recognizes that some long-time residents are financially challenged. Town Meeting has approved $500,000 in potential tax relief across twelve programs to help residents in a variety of circumstances. There has been a concerted and coordinated effort to “get the word out” to residents who could benefit from these programs. The program is working. Applications are up 300% this past year. According to the Assessors’ Department, Hingham is leading all South Shore communities in its program scope, budget and outreach to residents.
The Consequences of No Override Are Dire
If the Override is not approved at Town Meeting and at the ballot in the Town election, almost 65 town positions must be eliminated to balance the budget. Not only will vital Municipal services and student support be seriously reduced but the Town’s reputation may suffer. New residents may think twice about relocating here; property values could suffer and the reduced services will revert to be unmet and accumulate again as deferred needs. A “No” vote on the Override could set Hingham back a decade. We can and should do better.
A Defining Moment that Reveals What We Value
Thirty-seven years ago my wife, my pre-school daughter and I moved to Hingham. We didn’t create the Hingham that we were about to enjoy. Rather, the residents who came before us invested their tax dollars to create that town. We are a generous and responsible citizenry. Regardless of your age or length of residency, the stewardship mantle is ours now. Choices we make, time we give and taxes we pay are a form of “Pay it Forward” to preserve and improve upon the town which has been entrusted into our care for those that follow our path.
It takes a village to leave the village better than we found it. These are the moments of truth that reveal our
values and define who we are as a town. I am a Steward of Hingham and so are you. Join Me to Vote Yes to
Invest in Hingham.