Back to Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes
January 29, 2008
Regular Session 7:35 pm
Ms. Tully, Mr. Riley, Ms. Burns
Ms. Tully explained that the final wording on the ballot question is not yet available due to ongoing discussions between bond counsel, town counsel and the counsel to the MSBA. This does not indicate any difficulty. The earliest special town meeting would be March 3 and the election March 8. The various lawyers and decision makers are meeting tomorrow.
Voted - to approve a debt exclusion ballot vote on March 8, 2008 for the purpose of exempting from the provisions of Proposition two-and-one half, so called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to design, construct and equip a new elementary school; to design, repair and improve the Plymouth River and Foster elementary schools; and to design and install new modular classrooms at the Hingham Middle School provided that final wording of the ballot language is acceptable to Counsel to the Town.
Residential Tax Exemption Discussion
Ms. Tully explained that during last spring's goal setting session resulted in a goal of property tax relief. In order to allow sufficient time for the Assessors' Office to implement this it would be necessary to vote it prior to the tax classification hearing.
There are over a million Massachusetts residents living in 13 towns with the residential exemption. Ms. Burns explained the proposal. She noted that most of the towns under this program have 20% exemptions. Boston, Cambridge and Somerville have 30% exemptions. The letters received to date are running 3 to 1 against. The reasons for opposition include the redistribution of taxes is unfair, the value of one's home is not an accurate measure of an ability to pay taxes, people in larger homes do not use more town services, raising tax rate would make Hingham less friendly to businesses moving to town. The Board then opened the floor to comments from those in attendance.
Mr. Knapp asked if this exemption would provide a benefit to anyone on the Board.
Mr. Wanty commended the Selectmen for a balanced presentation of issue. He noted that this does not appear to be a need based program. He said the program does not recognize difference between debt vs. equity. If some one owns a $500,000 home with no mortgage how are they different from the one who owns a $1,000,000 home with a $500,000 mortgage? Ms. Joyce, Golf View Drive, suggested that out of a mere sense of compassion for people who have lived here all these years the Town should seriously consider this or something similar to it. Mr. Sweeney, Otis Street, applauded the idea but felt it is inequitable based on real estate value alone. The eligibility should be based on net worth.
Ms. Malme, Rockwood Rd., thanked the board for giving the opportunity for discussion. She noted that high property value does not equal high income and that there may be a number of long time residents whose properties have appreciated over the years and who would be hurt by this. Approximately 88% of the Town's assessed property value is in residential property and this is a very different tax base than those 13 communities who have adopted the residential exemption. Ms. Malme said the program was designed for Boston and later some resort communities adopted this program. She fe;lt that many well intentioned efforts to provide tax relief have unintended results. Transparency and accountability are important. She recommended that the Town continue to vote on cost of living increases for existing exemptions. She also suggested that people lobby legislators to expand the Circuit Breaker to people of all ages.
Ms. St. Leger, Middle Street, said that as a business owner in Malden she knows this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Assessments in Hingham will be under greater scrutiny and there are presently a large number of homes selling for less than the assessed value. A letter from Ms. Gilmartin was read in opposition to the implementation of the residential exemption.
Mr. Reardon commented that this is a very important decision for the town. He urged the Board to be transparent and as clear as possible as to what the impact will be. He said the numbers passed out are at the lowest level (5%) and asked what would be at the 10%, 15% or 20% level. Mr. Reardon also said this would be the end of the unitary tax rate and a disincentive commercial and industrial owners.
Mr. Watson, Rockland Street, concurred with previous speakers that housing value is not the same as income and does not reflect one's ability to pay. He noted that this would take some of the pressure off families that might otherwise be somewhat uneasy about the school project. Mr. Kelsch if there is a possibility of putting this before the entire town even though the Selectmen are authorized under the law to make the decision.
Mr. Hastings, Merrill St., noted that the assessors had made a recommendation for a single rate. Raising the taxes on the older homes may force people over the edge and cause them to sell for more development. He also noted that this could have an adverse impact on businesses in the downtown that are having a hard enough time. Mr. Gardner, Berkley Circle, encouraged the Board to have a referendum on the question and to abide by the will of the people. Mr. Richardson, Ringbolt Road, said the exemption should be based on need noting that there is a silent majority who may be struggling to pay their taxes.
Mr. Riley thanked everyone for coming and said the Board would be remiss if it did not try to do something for tax relief. He said this is a discussion and it is the Board's position to listen to everyone. Ms. Tully said the Board would take all the comments under consideration and try to decide if this accomplishes the goal. She said that the Board would know by the meeting of February 12 whether this could go on the ballot and what the timeline would be if the Board were to decide to go forward.
Harbor Dredging: The Town is within $60,000 or $70,000 of fully funding the dredging for the next cycle. All of the dredging funds are coming from specialty fees collected from boat users.
Voted - to support the transfer of $30,000 to the Dredging Fund.
Building Department: Mr. Cristello explained that the use a revolving fund requires annual reauthorization from Town meeting.
Voted - to support the article on building revolving fund as written.
DCR Liability: This article is required if DCR were to come into town to do any work. There was an inventory of all the seawalls done a couple of years ago which might eventually result in some work.
Voted - to recommend the article as written.
Light Plant Receipts: This article deals with the annual payment in lieu of taxes from the Light Plant that has been growing at a 5% rate.
Voted – to recommend that with the exception of $497,750 which is hereby transferred to the General Fund to reduce the tax rate, all funds received by the Municipal Lighting Plant during the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2008 be appropriated to the Municipal Lighting Plant.
Stabilization Fund: The proceeds from the sale of various municipal buildings were deposited into the stabilization fund and are now being used annual to reduce the tax rate.
Voted – to recommend the article as written
Reserve Fund: This article would provide for the transfer of additional funds to the Reserve Fund for the current fiscal year.
Voted - to recommend no action on the Reserve Fund article.
Intermunicipal Agreement: Mr. Cristello explained that the Town has been very successful doing this with the South Shore Regional Recycling Cooperative and would be hard pressed to do it alone. This is a five-year renewal.
Voted - to support a five year renewal of the Intermunicipal Agreement with South Shore Recycling Cooperative.
Mr. Stigliani's memo said that the vehicle is being purchased under a bid through the Plymouth County Commissioners contract.
Voted - to sign a contract with Mirak Chevrolet for one new 2008 Model 3500 dump truck in the amount of $55,175.
Voted - to sign contract extension agreements for the following goods and services bid by the Regional Services Consortium:
Bituminous Concrete Aggregate Industries
Cold Planing Costello Industries
Reclamation Mass Pavement
Micro-Surfacing Sealcoating, Inc.
Crack Sealing 5A Crack Sealing, Inc.
Crack Sealing 5A1 Sealcoating, Inc.
Crack Sealing 5B1 Sealcoating, Inc.
Guardrail DeLucca Fence Co
Catch Basin Cleaning Truax Corporation
Gravel Kingstown Corporation
G. Lopes Construction
Loam T. L. Edwards
G. Lopes Construction
Ordinary Borrow G. Lopes Construction
Selectmen/Town Administrator Reports
Mr. Riley said he had been working on trying to set a date for the new committee to discuss parking at the harbor. Ms. Tully noted that Central Fire administration has moved back in. She also commented on the amount of correspondence on the residential tax exemption. Mr. Cristello said that the 25 window replacements at Town Hall are being done under the 10-year warranty. The official opening celebration for the Central Fire Station has been scheduled for April 6.
Voted, by roll call vote, to adjourn to executive session to discuss real estate and not to return to open session this evening.
Ms. Burns – yes
Mr. Riley – yes
Ms. Tully – yes
Open session adjourned 9:20 pm.