Opinion: What We Fund is What We Value

Alexis Lefort

April 6, 2023 By Alexis Gendron Lefort

My husband and I chose to move to Hingham to raise our kids in large part because of the schools, but we—and many others with school-aged children—could come to question that decision if the upcoming override doesn’t pass.

I’m a product of the Hingham Public Schools—I attended Foster (grades K-2), Plymouth River (3-6), Central Junior (7), South Junior (8), and Hingham High (9-12). I was in the last class at Central before it closed because of a failed override in 1989, and I don’t want my kids to also have to deal with the fallout of a failed override. The vote in FY1990 closed the North Fire Station and eliminated eight firefighter positions; cut hours at the library and transfer station (then the landfill, for the old timers!); eliminated five police positions; cut 42 school positions, including 19 teachers; and instituted an athletic fee. I remember overflowing classrooms after the two junior highs were combined into one school, an issue that remains in Hingham today—my son has classes at the high school with 30+ students in them.

People point to how high Hingham schools have historically ranked on various “best schools” lists as evidence that funding has been adequate, but ask the average HPS parent how much money they’ve spent on outside tutors and other enrichment activities and services to help their student get by in school and the answers might surprise you. Talk to parents of kids with differing needs about the outside help they pay for, and the answers might horrify you. Public schools have a duty to educate all students well, not just the highest-performing students. Paying for these additional supports can fill the gap if you can afford it, but this is a public school system and necessary services should be available in school for all, whether or not they can pay for outside help.

School systems are among the top factors homebuyers consider when evaluating towns. Today’s buyers do research online beyond looking at the “best of” lists, and they’re aware of which towns are putting resources toward their schools, and which towns aren’t. Even people without children consider the school system before buying, because they know that good schools mean strong home values. We are so fortunate that Hingham’s property values are as strong as they are, and for those of us hoping to use home equity for college tuition, or as a nest egg for retirement, we need to make sure our property values stay that way. A Northeastern University study on overrides found that for every $1 saved in taxes, homeowners forfeited nearly $4 in value when selling their home.

Hingham’s conservative approach to spending has helped us maintain a AAA bond rating and kept our property taxes low, but it’s also led to deferred maintenance situations, such as the deterioration of Foster and the public safety buildings. Later this month we will be faced with an opportunity to decide how to prevent this moving forward. It’s not just the schools that will be affected by a No vote, it’s also elder services, the library, and emergency services, among others.

I recently came across a quote that really resonated with me: “Budgets are moral documents, what we fund is what we value.” I want to live in a town that funds a town social worker, sustainability efforts, elder services, assistance for veterans, public works, and first responders. I want schools that offer arts and sports and after-school clubs (without additional out-of-pocket fees from parents). I want teachers and other school employees to feel like they’re valued and appreciated, and not being made to do more each year with less.

Both the Select Board and the Advisory Committee voted unanimously in favor of passing the override. Hingham has a long history of excellent stewardship, and our current officials are no exception. Please trust that they have all Hinghamites’ best interests in mind, and join me in voting Yes for the override at Town Meeting on April 24th and again at the Town Election on April 29th.

1 thought on “Opinion: What We Fund is What We Value”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.