Prior to the March 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town was experiencing an increased demand for municipal and school services that was difficult to address with available revenue. Similar to many Massachusetts communities, the cost of providing services has outpaced revenue growth allowed under Proposition 2 ½. The global pandemic and inflationary environment further exacerbated these budget pressures.
With approval of Hingham’s 2021 Annual Town Meeting, resources were added across the Town to help students recover from COVID-19 and provide critical capacity to school and municipal operations. These resources included 32 positions in the School Department, four positions in municipal departments, and funds to support a new field maintenance program and address shortfalls in the legal and snow and ice budgets. To balance this large increase in FY22, the Town used approximately $5 million in one-time federal funds and local reserves.
Understanding that we were creating a structural deficit, the Town formed a task force to begin developing a long-term financial management plan. Through this Sustainable Budget Task Force, municipal and school leaders worked together to explore revenue opportunities and identify ways to fund the Town’s budget going forward.
At Hingham’s 2022 Annual Town Meeting, in accordance with recommendations from the Task Force and in acknowledgement of the continued pandemic, the Town chose to maintain the added positions and services, once again employ $3.8 million in available federal and local one-time monies to balance the FY23 budget, and begin planning for an override in FY24.
As a result, the Town is entering the FY24 budget season with a significant deficit ($7.5 million as of late January 2023). To bridge the funding gap and avoid further deepening the deficit, the Town must either reduce services to balance the FY24 budget or raise additional revenue through an override to maintain current educational and municipal operations. An override requires approval at Annual Town Meeting on April 24, 2023 and on the ballot at the Annual Town Election on April 29, 2023.