Back to Advisory Committee Minutes
Town of Hingham
December 8, 2009 Meeting Minutes
Hingham Central Fire Station
Present: Committee Members Seelen, Manning, Asher, Dwyer, Eldredge, Ellison, Farrell, Friedman, Innis, Johnson, Lauter, MacCune, Marwill, O’Meara
1. Call to order
Chair Jerry Seelen called the Advisory Committee meeting to order at 7:31 PM.
2. Approval of minutes for November 17
The Committee reviewed and unanimously approved the minutes for November 17th.
3. Financial and Budget Update
Town Finance Director Ted Alexiades signaled that the FY10 Tax Levy will reflect the full $1.1M operating override since the Town has not yet received its Federal stimulus funding of $965,488.
As a result, the new tax rate likely to be certified by the State Department of Revenue is $10.78 per $1000 of assessed valuation, a ~10.6% increase over the FY09 tax rate of $9.75.
In response to the Committee’s request on November 17th, Ted elucidated the components of the General Fund Balance. It is the largest of the ~300 funds held by the Town but the only one which classifies its fund balance as ‘undesignated’ i.e., not in existence for a specific purpose. The General Fund Balance is the municipal equivalent of corporate ‘retained earnings.’
The General Fund Balance is comprised of:
• Revenue surplus or deficit
• Expenditure surplus or deficit
• Encumbrances – funds committed for expenses incurred in one fiscal year which will not be paid until the next
‘Free Cash’ is that portion of the General Fund Balance available for expenditure as certified by the State Department of Revenue.
Ted advised that changes in GASB accounting rules—anticipated within approximately two years—may affect the methodology for calculation of the General Fund Balance.
4. Traffic Light/Skate Park
Jerry informed the Committee that the Planning Board was deliberating whether or not to have the Shipyard developer install a traffic signal at Beal Street. Town Planner Katy Lacy has since informed Jerry that the Planning Board did indeed decide to have the developer install the traffic signal now.
Regarding the $175K reserved for building a Skate Park on the DPW site, the Board of Selectmen is considering the return of those funds to the General Fund Balance. This option is viable since $1M of DPW Building Project funding was originally sourced from the General Fund Balance. There was some discussion regarding whether or not the decision to not build the Skate Park should be made by Town Meeting.
5. Harbor-Dredging Surplus
Harbor Development Committee liaison Dan Dwyer informed the Committee that a surplus of ~$400K is expected in the Harbor-Dredging Fund due to significantly lower bids received than originally estimated.
In response to questions from the Committee, Ted explained that since the Harbor-Dredging Fund is funded from the Municipal Waterways Fund, any surplus must either remain in the Harbor-Dredging Fund for future dredging use or be returned to the Municipal Waterways Fund. In either case, any surplus may not be moved to the General Fund Balance. Alternatively, surplus funds may be used for other water-related expenses, such as fire and police.
6. Housing Trust and Lincoln School Apartments
Gretchen Condon and Jim O’Brien, Chairman and Secretary, respectively, of the Hingham Affordable Housing Trust (HAHT), presented an update of HAHT finances and current initiatives. Highlights include that:
• HAHT has spent only ~$2.5K of the $225K transferred to the HAHT from the Community Preservation Committee Housing Reserve as authorized by Annual Town Meeting 2008
• Hingham’s Subsidized Housing Inventory percentage is ~15% if all the Linden Ponds units qualify and is ~5% if only 25% of the Linden Ponds units qualify
o The Town has greater power to control 40B proposals if and when it is certified to have met or exceeded the 10% State standard
o In response to a question regarding HAHT’s strategy relative to the 10% threshold, Gretchen responded that—in accordance with the Town’s Affordable Housing Plan revised in June 2006—the HAHT would still be committed to improving the availability of affordable housing in the Town
• The Selectmen’s parcel represents an opportunity to create 38 affordable ‘for sale’ units to families
o 67% of the proposed units would be affordable and 33% would be market-rate
The Committee requested an estimate of the expected property-tax revenue to be derived from the entire development
The Committee asked if there were any estimate of the cost to the Town in services (schools, fire, police, etc.), particularly since the development would be 67% affordable rather than the more common 25% affordable. A comparison with other similar affordable developments was requested.
o The Committee expressed a concern regarding the total cost of the entire permitting process. Jim assured the Committee that the $50K currently allocated could be supplemented by grants and other technical support.
HAHT’s objective through the RFQ process is to assemble a team ready to make decisions methodically and in a timely fashion
• The 80 Beal Street (Amego) parcel represents an opportunity to create 6-8 smaller units which would be either ‘for sale’ or rental properties for families
o In response to a question regarding allocation of some units to senior housing, Jim observed that the units are too small except for senior singles
The HAHT may address that need during the permitting process
• The filling of a part-time administrative position is covered under the HAHT’s 2008 Allocation Plan item ‘5% for administration of the HAHT’ and is not expected to require more than 5-7 hours/week
o HAHT will work with the Town Human Resources Director in filling the position
• The move of the Litchfield house, built in 1735, from the South Shore Country Club grounds to the 80 Beal Street property is under consideration by the HAHT and the Country Club Management Committee to combine affordable housing with historic preservation
o Jim mentioned that while moving and preserving the house would cost more than building new, it would probably cost at least $50K just to destroy the house and stabilize the ground at the SSCC
• In response to a query regarding the results for Hingham Local Preference in the Back River lottery, Jim explained that besides income requirements, candidates had to be one of the following:
o Town employee
o Town resident
o Parent of a child in the Hingham school system
Includes parents of Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) students
The lottery resulted in four of the five affordable units going to Hingham Local Preference candidates. Jim noted that—in the absence of sufficient minority representation in the Local Preference pool—the State adds minority entries.
• Jim reviewed the Lincoln School Apartments capital needs, noting that replacement of the windows and boilers for ~$300K would save ~$37K/year in energy costs
o While the property’s 2009 ‘Net Available for Equity-Distribution’ was projected to be ~$158K, the current estimate is ~$264K
The HAHT is exploring options to address the ~$74K shortfall for 2010 resulting from 19-year bonding vs. the originally-projected 29-year bonding for the $6.7M loan
• The Federal HUD Housing Assistance Program (HAP) subsidy may be affected during the HAP-contract renewal process
7. Advisory Committee Rules Amendment
The Committee discussed the latest version of the draft Preamble/Policies and Procedures produced by the Rules Subcommittee with the following results:
• A motion to remove Rule #7 regarding ‘public advocacy’ was defeated
• A motion to accept a slightly-amended Rule #7 was approved
• A motion to strike the last sentence in Rule #15 regarding ‘written acknowledgement’ was approved
• A motion to strike the last phrase in Rule #17 regarding ‘resignation’ was approved
• A motion to accept the draft as amended—subject to review and comment by the Moderator and Town Counsel—was approved
o Dan Dwyer requested that his abstention be recorded
8. General Business and Announcements
Jerry encouraged the Police, Fire, and DPW liaisons to request benchmarking similar to that done by the School Department. In like manner, Jerry is contacting neighboring Advisory/Finance Committee chairmen.
Regarding the revised agreement on use of potential Federal stimulus funds, Ted encouraged Jerry to involve the Committee in the discussion.
The proposed Warrant article revising the Capital Outlay Committee portion of Article 14 of the Town By-Laws was distributed to the Committee for discussion at its December 15th meeting.
The Committee meeting adjourned at 11:42 PM.
Jonathan R. Asher, Secretary