OPINION: Be Engaged in the Hingham Override Conversation (Seventh in the Hingham Stewardship Series)

Glenn Mangurian

February 13, 2023 By Glenn Mangurian

Stew·ard·ship: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

This Spring, Hingham residents will decide the level of town services (Municipal and School) to support. The Hingham Budget Process is currently being reviewed by resident volunteers – the School Committee (SC) for the School Department budget request and the Select Board (SB) for the Municipal budget request. The School Committee will be holding a public hearing on the School Department request (most recent presentation) on February 13, 6PM at the Town Hall. The Town Administrator will be presenting his Municipal budget request to the Select Board in the next few weeks. To date, the request presentations have been excellent and have incorporated strong supportive data. All meetings are open to residents in person or virtually via Zoom. (You can learn about the time, place and access codes for these meetings at the Hingham Online Agenda Center.) Your voice matters. Be engaged in the process because your vote at Town Meeting will decide the investment in town services.

The Deferred Hingham Override
Two years ago (for the FY22 budget), Town Leaders recommended and residents approved investing to expanded services, funding a balanced budget through the use of one-time funds (Federal and town Unassigned Fund Balance – “rainy day” funds) and deferring an operating budget override. Last year, Town Leaders recommended to sustain Level Services using one-time funds again and defer an operating budget override decision until this Spring for the FY24 budget. This year, the decision will involve a choice between sustaining the Level Services (with an override), reducing town services (with no or reduced override) or investing in enhanced services (with an override). If the override is not approved, the equivalent of 80-90 full time employees would need to be reduced in order to balance the budget. The Select Board and School Committee reviews/approvals will be forwarded to the Advisory Committee for review and recommendation for the Town Warrant (mailed to all residents) and reported at the Hingham Town Meeting.

Hingham’s Override History
Massachusetts Prop 2 ½ imposes budget growth constraints on all cities and towns but gives local residents the ability to override those constraints when the desired services cannot be met within the constraints. Hingham residents have benefited from prudent financial management. The Town’s bond rating is Aaa – the highest rating possible – allowing for the most favorable borrowing terms. Over the past thirty four years there have been only four operating budget overrides – far fewer than our peer towns. Since 2000, there have been only two overrides with the last one approved in 2009. Since 2000, Hingham ranked 14 th among its twenty benchmark communities for number of overrides. In last decade, increased town growth (e.g. the Shipyard new construction, the Beal St. development and Linden Ponds expansion) has allowed for some town service investment while also allocated surpluses to replenish its “rainy day” fund which had dropped below the recommended reserve level. Unmet needs were deferred and accumulated for future consideration.

The Tax Impact of an Operating Budget Override – Current Estimated at $150 per Quarter for the Median Tax Bill
The Covid pandemic amplified the urgency of dealing with the learning loss and social/emotional needs of Hingham students. The FY22 Hingham operating budget approved by the annual Town Meetings required new investment to fund some of the critical accumulated deferred needs. “Rainy day” funds together with one time Federal funds were used to balance the budget for the past two years and defer an override until now. The two year deferred override is estimated to be $6.2 million. I’m advised that a general rule of thumb is that $1 million of override equates to about $100 of increase on the median tax bill. If accurate, the current override estimate would increase the median tax bill by $620 or about $150 per quarter. I’m reminded that Hingham offers a number of different property tax relief programs for residents based on age, income, and veteran or disability status.

Investing Across Generations
Thirty-seven years ago my wife, my pre-school daughter and I moved to Hingham. As new residents, we inherited all the beauty and benefits created by the investment decisions of many previous generations. Over the past thirty-seven years we joined with our fellow residents to invest in Hingham for our benefit as well as for future generations. During that time, Hingham acquired the South Shore Country Club, rebuilt/renovated the South, East, Middle, and High School Schools. The town also expanded the Hingham Library and relocated the Town Hall, School Department and Senior Center. The list goes on. The vibrancy of a town depends upon attracting new residents. The town never ages out. This cycle of stewards investing for the future has continued for generations. Investing across generations contributes to increase in property values, provides new perspectives on emerging town issues and works to sustain excellence in supporting the evolving needs of town services. The recent town reassessment reveals that Hingham continues to be highly desirable South Shore town as property values have increased 22% since last assessment. The Sustainable Budget Task Force reported last year that FY22 average Hingham single family tax bill as a percentage of DOR income per capita was on the low end (ranked #17) of the twenty peer towns. This indicator points to some capacity to absorb tax increases relative to this group of peer communities.

Be a Steward. Be Engaged.
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. Be engaged in the conversation because your voice matters.

3 thoughts on “OPINION: Be Engaged in the Hingham Override Conversation (Seventh in the Hingham Stewardship Series)”

  1. The changes to the school system if this override does not pass is deep. Layoffs as well as changes to the curriculum and sports offerings would occur. We need to move forward with a school system that reflects the standards this town has for our students and provided the staffing, curriculum and other activities that give all students an opportunity to pursue their interests. This article provides a clear explanation and the encouragement to everyone to participate in this transparent process. There are many people who are working hard to made sure that everyone understands the pros and cons.

    • My hope is to simplify the complex and have residents more informed about questions where their vote is needed. I’m a steward and so are you.


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