March 27, 2023 By Julie Strehle
I am writing today to talk to Hingham voters. An important vote will come before Annual Town Meeting and the local election in the coming weeks. Voters’ participation in this process is important, because the consequences of these votes, either way, will affect the residents of Hingham for many years.
The Town of Hingham has an open Town Meeting form of government, which means that registered voters serve as the legislature. A critical decision each year is the vote on the Town’s budget. This year, Annual Town Meeting will ask voters whether to approve a Proposition 2 ½ override, a request not seen since 2009. Proposition 2 ½ is a Massachusetts law enacted in 1980 that limits the amount of property tax revenue a municipality can raise through real and personal property taxes. An override is a permanent property tax increase, which would give Hingham the ability to generate sufficient revenues to keep the services that we rely on today.
Over the past fourteen years since the last override, Town officials and committees have worked hard to keep taxes low. Budgets reflected prudent fiscal management and use of funds coming from new growth, while at the same time, limited revenue meant that municipal and school budgets were stretched too thin. As expenses crept up at a faster pace than revenues, the Town had less ability to add positions and services to meet increased demand. I had the honor of serving on the Town’s Advisory Committee, which serves as the finance committee for the Town, from 2016 – 2022. Our annual report to Annual Town Meeting of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 reported that the “growth of expenses continues to outpace the growth of revenues”. And the reports of 2020, 2021 and 2022 went further to caution the eventual necessity of an override.
That day has come in 2023, and I am voting to support the override at Annual Town Meeting on April 24th and at the polls on April 29th. It is a necessary tool that the Town needs to use not only to avoid eliminating 19 municipal employees and 46 public school positions, but modestly invest in some critical resources. I am encouraged that the rate of expense growth is addressed by the unanimous approval by the Select Board, School Committee and Advisory Committee on a Memorandum of Understanding to cap the annual growth rate for both municipal and school budgets at 3.5% until 2028. Even after this tax increase, the Town tax rate will continue to remain in the middle of the range of our peer towns.
So now as we confront this override question, my request is that you make an informed decision as a voter. Please register to vote if you haven’t done so. Consult the following resources to learn the facts:
- Take a look at the helpful collection of FAQs and documents on the Town’s website:
- Attend information sessions either in person on Thursday 3/30, 7:00 pm at Town Hall, or by Zoom on Tuesday 4/11, 7:00 pm;
- Read the Advisory Committee Report to Town Meeting in the Warrant coming soon to your mailbox.
Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to seeing you at Annual Town Meeting!