Financial Update From Selectmen Is Mixed
By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, September 2, 2020
Hingham Current News File Photo
At the end of Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Chair Mary Power provided an update on town finances. She highlighted recent funding awarded to the Town and went into some detail about the current financial picture and future projections.
On Monday afternoon, Mary Power and Town Administrator Tom Mayo accepted the first disbursement of CARES Act funding from Plymouth County on behalf of the Town. The Plymouth County Commissioners applied for and received funds from the federal government specifically for the cities and towns under their jurisdiction. Plymouth County is the only county in Massachusetts to do so. “Plymouth County takes their responsibility for administering $91M very seriously,” said Power.
The funds are being distributed to municipalities in four phases as reimbursement for COVID-related expenses. Last month, Hingham applied for $60,000 under Phase 1 to cover the costs incurred for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Phase 1 allocations were based on population. With close to 24,000 residents, Hingham’s “soft cap” for requests was over $1M.
Funding in Phase 2 is based upon a combination of population and the number of COVID cases in a community. Phase 3 is for libraries, veterans and senior centers only, and Phase 4 is based on population. Any funding that has not been used by a city or town in Plymouth County by October 15th will be taken back by the Commissioners and offered to non-profits.
In addition to Power, Mayo and the Commissioners, Rep. Steven Lynch, Sen. Patrick O’Connor and Rep. Joan Meschino were present at the event. “Both Tom and I were chatting with people and talking but letting them know that we actually will be submitting our next reimbursement request I think is in excess of $700,000,” said Power, “and that is going to be for in particular a lot of technology and items for the schools.”
However, Power did not feel the $3.3M that is available to Hingham through the County would be sufficient to meet the Town’s needs. “While certainly the CARES Act is helpful and welcome,” she said, “it’s not going to be enough to cover potentially all of the COVID costs that communities like Hingham are facing.”
Later in the meeting, Power provided an update on the first financial forecast group meeting of the year that she had attended with Assistant Town Administrator Michelle Monsegur. “People may recall that when we put together the FY21 (“Fiscal Year 2021”) Financial Management Plan, we spoke about the forecast group meeting monthly to see how we’re doing,” she said. Being the first month of the new Fiscal Year, July’s results had been examined during the meeting, and Power credited both the Town and the School Department’s Tier One cost reduction measures, also known as "austerity measures," for the positive financial picture.
“So far it’s all looking in line with our expectations,” said Power. “We’re not seeing anything that’s giving us cause for concern.” She added that the Town’s expenditures “when compared to previous years were lower.” Because of this, Power predicts that if there are any expenses related to COVID that may need to be absorbed, the Town would be in a position to do so.
However, she also acknowledged that experts say the effects will be long-lasting. “The projection is that we will all be feeling the financial impact of COVID, not just in FY21 but in FY22,” she explained. “So as we continue to kind of work through this, we are being advised to take a multi-year view, and I think that’s kind of what we had in mind when we put together the plan in May.”