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Assessors must value all real and personal property in the community to their full and fair cash value. Mass appraisal is the process used by every Massachusetts City and Town to create the property assessments. Assessments are based on an analysis of Hingham’s entire real estate market for a specified period of time. For Fiscal Year 2022, we use a valuation date of 1/1/2021 and analyze the sales from all of 2020.This study guides the setting of valuation parameters that are used to calculate the property values town-wide. It differs from the more well-known “bank” or fee appraisal. Although the appraisal concepts are the same and the results similar, the process is different. No particular sale or group of sales is used to determine the value of your property, but all of a certain calendar year’s sales are included in the analysis that set the parameters for the next fiscal year.
The assessment is an estimate of market value. The definition of market value is the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller in an open, competitive market, without any undue influences. The assessment represents the estimate of market value as of January 1, 2021 for Fiscal Year 2022. This estimate of market value is determined by examining sales of properties from calendar year 2020. Although the majority of properties are not for sale, Massachusetts General Laws requires an assessment, or an estimate of market value, on every property. Sales of similar or comparable properties within a neighborhood are the best indicator of market value.
The Assessors look at a property the same way a potential buyer looks at a property. They consider the factors that a potential buyer considers. Examples of important factors are the following: Building style, livable area, quality of construction, number of rooms, baths, fireplaces, extra features like pools and detached garages – all are examples of the data collected. The Assessors examine many qualities and conditions and then look for comparable properties that have sold in comparable neighborhoods. Since no two houses are identical, adjustments are made for differing characteristics to determine the assessment. Thus the assessment is an estimate of market value.
The assessed value represents the estimate of market value of the property. The real estate market changes constantly. The assessment for Fiscal Year 2022 represents the estimate of market value as of January 1, 2021. This estimate of market value is determined by examining sales of properties from calendar year 2020. Although there may not have been any physical changes to the property, buyers may be paying more or less for properties than they were in previous years. The assessment changes reflect the changes in the purchase prices of similar homes in the neighborhood. The assessments do not predict market value. The assessments reflect (or report) market value. The real estate market can change dramatically from year to year. The assessments reflect what buyers and sellers are doing as of the assessment date.
Market value changes occur in many forms. Buyers have different requirements and these requirements sometimes change from year to year. Also, sometimes renovations have been performed on a property that would cause a change in assessed value different from a similar property that did not undergo renovations. A recent inspection by the assessor’s office also may have contributed to a change in assessed value. Perhaps the property had not been inspected in several years and the property information has now been updated to more accurately reflect the condition of the property.
Proposition 2 ½ places constraints on the amount of taxes, which the Town can levy and on how much the Town can increase the tax levy from year to year. It provides the Town with annual increases in its tax levy of: 2.5 percent and an additional amount based on the valuation of certain new construction and other allowable growth in the tax base ("new growth"). With Proposition 2 ½, a minimum 2.5 percent increase in the Town's total tax levy can be expected each year.
Proposition 2 ½ limits the amount of taxes a community can raise from property tax. The assessment is an estimate of market value. Since the real estate market changes are based upon the buyers’ and sellers’ needs, there is no limit to the amount an assessment can increase or decrease. Assessment changes are always based on the real estate market. For example, if a property sells for $500,000 in calendar year 2020, there is no limit or minimum price it would sell for in calendar year 2021 or beyond. It could sell for $600,000, $700,000, $1,000,000 or $400,000. The sale price would be based on the real estate market at that time. The assessments do not predict market value. The assessments reflect (or report) market value.
If your opinion of the value of your property differs from the assessment value, by all means come to the Assessor’s Office and discuss the matter. The staff will be glad to answer your questions about the assessment procedures. When questioning the assessment value, ask yourself three questions:
Keep in mind what's important: sale prices, quality of construction, condition, your property's neighborhood designation, and the building area and lot area. These are the most critical factors in the valuation process. There is a variety of information available to help you determine whether your Assessment is fair and equitable. The staff will be happy to assist you, and no appointment is necessary. If, after discussing the matter with the staff and researching the assessments of comparable properties within your area, a difference of opinion still exists, you may appeal your assessment to the Board of Assessors by filing an Abatement Application (PDF).
Yes, all of our permitting is done online. This would include residential and commercial building permits, plumbing, gas fitting, electrical, sheet metal, tent, sign, and solid fuel-burning appliances. To register or log in go to www.hingham-ma.gov/permitting
Generally any time you are opening walls you should be applying for a building permit. If the work includes electrical and/or plumbing or gas the licensed electrician and licensed plumber will apply for their own permits and pay a permit fee for their work. The estimated cost of their work should be included with the estimated construction costs on the building permit application.
Yes you may, however a word of caution, some simple jobs may not be so simple. Here is an explanation of why homeowners should not obtain the building permit for construction projects.
This handy chart will guide you to determine the types of work that require the licenses your contractor shall have for your project.
Work Requiring a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) Registration or Construction Supervisor License (CSL)
In residential zoning districts you are allowed one shed that does not exceed sixty four (64) square feet in ground coverage and nine (9) feet in height (typically 8’x8’) that can be placed to the rear of the dwelling no closer than five (5) feet from side and rear lot lines. If the shed is larger than that it must meet the setbacks for the zone it is located in. In all instances a building permit must be applied for and issued before the shed can be installed.
A fence 6’ and under does not require a permit. The Building Department strongly recommends that you erect a fence 12”-18” in from your property line for maintenance purposes. A fence over 6’ must meet the setbacks for the zone it is in or seek relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
See the GIS (Graphic Information System) page the Town’s web site
See Section IV-A of the Town of Hingham Zoning By-Law.
You may search the Public Listing of Building Permits online. Please note that you will only find permits from 2010 to present. And you may not find all the information on line for permits issued between 2010 to 2016. Prior permits and other information will be found in the Building Departments street file(s) and will require you to come to the office during regular business hours. The Building Departments street files(s) go back to the early 1980’s. Anything prior to that may take some time on your part researching records in our office. And many older permits are archived and may take staff time to retrieve the information.
You may search the Public Listing of Building Permits . Please note that you will only find permits from 2010 to present. And you may not find all the information on line for permits issued between 2010 to 2016. Prior permits and other information will be found in the Building Departments street file(s) and will require you to come to the office during regular business hours. The Building Departments street files go back to the early 1980’s. Anything prior to that may take some time on your part researching records in our office. And many older permits are archived and may take staff time to retrieve the information.
Users, or the caterer they have hired, are responsible for setting up and returning the space as found. All trash must be removed.
Yes, there are 6 8-person round tables and 48 chairs available as well as two 6-foot long banquet tables for use. They are stored in the men’s and women’s bathrooms. Prior to your departure, the tables and chairs must be returned to their storage space. You must provide your own linens.
The Community Room measures 27’ 10” x 20’ 5”
Yes, inside only. Feel free to bring your own speaker as we do not provide one.
No. Balloons, candles, confetti, rice, rose petals, or similar materials may not be used at the facility. Battery operated candles only.
Per the Hingham Fire Department, propane heaters of any kind are not allowed at the facility.
Yes, you will need to hire a caterer or bartender. Liquor is not allowed unless you employ a caterer with a Massachusetts 12C Caterer’s License. You are not allowed to bring or serve your own beer or wine. Information regarding Special One-Day Liquor Licenses can be found on the Select Board webpage.
Yes, you may bring your own food for your guests. Please let us know if you decide to do this. You are not allowed to bring or serve your own beer or wine.
If the facility is undamaged, and left in the same condition as found, you will receive your security deposit back within thirty (30) days after your event.
Residents can obtain the sticker from the Department of Public Works. See the Transfer Station Stickers page for contact information.
Permission to use the Gazebo/Bandstand is granted by the town. The usage policy is available on the online. There is a $50 charge for non-residents.
The Town’s current fiscal year (FY23) operating budget is approximately $141 million. (The $141 million includes approximately $19.1 million for water, sewer, and South Shore Country Club operations, which are funded from user rates and have no impact on property taxes.)
The largest five departmental budgets supported by property tax revenue include Schools ($61.8 million), Employee Benefits ($15.6 million), Police ($7.2 million), Fire ($7.2 million), and Debt Service ($5.8 million).
The town uses a Five-Year Financial Forecast to project revenues and expenditures for future fiscal years. This document evolves during the budget process as new revenue and expenditure data/information becomes available. It is an iterative process, so the FY24 deficit will change as we incorporate updated revenue projections and expense estimates at different points in the budget cycle.
We typically put together the initial version of the Forecast each December once municipal and school budget requests are submitted for the upcoming fiscal year. The Forecast is then updated 2-3 more times – typically in late January/early February when Q2 revenue information becomes available and again in early March when health insurance rates are published for the upcoming fiscal year and preliminary State aid information becomes available. The Forecast is finalized in mid-March once the Advisory Committee votes final budget recommendations.
As of early March 2023, the current FY24 deficit is $6.0 million.
The Town Administrator and School Superintendent have talked about the 65/35 allocation in recent discussions and that’s what the proposed school and municipal “balanced budget” scenarios are based on. The 65/35 split comes from the relative size of the school and municipal budgets (see pages 67-70 of the Sustainable Budget Task Force report, which includes the FY22 chart below). Ultimately, the budget recommendations from the Advisory Committee will be printed in the Warrant (in Article 6) and made to Town Meeting.
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 ($6.0 million as of early March 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.
The Select Board, School Committee, and Advisory Committee all unanimously recommended an FY24 budget that includes a proposed $7,890,467 override to fund the operating budgets of the Town and Hingham Public Schools. To pass, the override requires approval at Annual Town Meeting on April 24, 2023 and on the ballot at the Annual Town Election on April 29, 2023.
The Select Board, School Committee, and Advisory Committee all unanimously recommended an FY24 budget that includes a proposed $7,890,467 override to fund the operating budgets of the Town and Hingham Public Schools. If approved this spring, the override would go into effect on July 1, 2023.
Yes, several different levels and structures of overrides were considered. The Town needs just over $6 million to continue providing the same level of services we currently provide, so that makes up the bulk of the $7.89 million proposed override. At this time, the Select Board, School Committee, Advisory Committee are not recommending service cuts, which is what an override number smaller than $6 million would entail.
In addition to the $6 million to keep what we have in place, the Select Board, School Committee, and Advisory Committee recommended funding $1.9 million of the total additional $3.2 million requested by departments (to enhance services/capacity). The $1.9 million represents the most critical of those requests. The Town Administrator outlined the municipal requests on February 16 (slides 16-32 here, or the video is here starting at 1:55:40). The School Department also outlined its needs in many budget documents, including the presentation from February 27.
The Town is trying to balance its responsibility to provide quality services with the impact on taxpayers. With regards to taxpayer impact, we have made a concerted effort to increase awareness of the Town's property tax exemptions and relief programs. In addition, the Select Board advanced three warrant articles this spring (Articles 16, 17, and 18) that will further expand tax relief for Hingham homeowners.
The Select Board is the only body that can place an override question on an election ballot, so the Board determines the override amount in that way. However, there are additional steps in the process, including the Advisory Committee making budget recommendations to Town Meeting (via Article 6 in the Warrant) and Town Meeting adopting a balanced budget.
On March 15, 2023, the Select Board voted to place the following question on the official ballot for the April 29, 2023 Town election:
The Advisory Committee's FY24 budget recommendations to Town Meeting (via Article 6 in the Warrant) also reflect the proposed $7,890,467 override.
We have developed a Tax Impact Calculator that residents can use to enter their street address and view the estimated FY24 property tax increase resulting from the proposed override.
Without the override, the median Hingham taxpayer, whose property is currently assessed at $898,850, would have an estimated FY24 tax bill of $9,634. With the override, the median taxpayer's FY24 estimated tax bill would increase by approximately $751 to $10,385.
For more detailed information related to estimated property tax impacts of the proposed override, please click here.
If approved, the override would go into effect for FY24, which begins on July 1, 2023.
If the override does not pass this spring, the Town will need to contract services and reduce personnel to lower its FY24 expenditures by $6,015,216 beginning July 1, 2023. Approximately $3.9 million, including 46.1 FTEs, will come from the School Department and approximately $2.1 million, including 19.4 FTEs, will come from the municipal departments. The reductions would affect a number of service areas as outlined below.
Hingham Public Schools
General Government Services
Culture & Recreation
The override requires two separate votes this spring.
The first vote is at Annual Town Meeting on Monday, April 24, 2023 at 7pm at Hingham High School. This is an in-person event only. The override vote will be part of Warrant Article 6 and it requires a majority vote to pass. If you’re new to Town Meeting, the State has a helpful Citizen’s Guide to Town Meetings.
The second vote is at the Town Election on Saturday, April 29, 2023. The override question will be Question 1 (there is only one ballot question this spring) and it requires a majority vote to pass. For the Town Election, you can vote in person on Election Day or you can vote by mail ahead of time.
You must be a registered voter in Hingham to participate in Town Meeting and the Town Election this spring. The last day to register to vote for these events is Friday, April 14, 2023.
Since Prop 2 ½ was passed in 1980, the Town of Hingham has considered eight overrides as shown in the table below. The last override that passed was in 2009. It supported funding for the opening of a fourth elementary school (East School) in FY10.
According to the MA Department of Revenue’s Municipal Databank, our 19 benchmark communities have both proposed overrides more often than Hingham and passed overrides more often than Hingham.
Since 1990, our 19 benchmark communities have proposed a total of 211 overrides, which comes to an average of 11.1 proposed overrides per community compared to Hingham’s 8 proposed overrides during that period.
Hingham’s benchmark communities have also levied taxes through overrides more often. Since 1990, our 19 benchmark communities have passed a total of 120 overrides, which comes to an average of 6.3 “wins” per community compared to Hingham’s 4 “wins” during the same period.
Please see the table below for a breakdown by community.
According to the MA Department of Revenue’s Municipal Databank, Hingham’s FY23 residential property tax rate is lower than most of our benchmark communities. As the chart below shows, Hingham’s FY23 residential tax rate of $10.00 is tied for second lowest among the 20 communities.
According to the MA Department of Revenue’s Municipal Databank, Hingham’s average single family property tax bill is $11,177 for FY23. As the chart below shows, Hingham ranks just below the midpoint among our benchmark communities in terms of average single family property tax bills.
If we roll these numbers forward to FY24, taking the estimated increase from the $7.89M override and the first year of debt service for the Foster School and Public Safety Facility projects into account, Hingham would remain near the midpoint among our benchmark communities in terms of FY24 average single family property tax bills.
The non refundable convenience fee when using credit cards is a percentage-based or flat rate fee that varies depending on the card type and the bill you are paying. The convenience fee is automatically calculated based upon the type of credit card used and the dollar amount of the bill being paid and is shown on the payment page before you submit your payment for processing.
There are fees imposed by Invoice Cloud for returned payments, and your bank may charge you a fee based on the bank's fee schedule.
Proposition 2 ½ is a Massachusetts law enacted in 1980 that strictly limits the amount of property tax revenue a municipality can raise through real and personal property taxes. This revenue is called the “tax levy.”
Prop 2 ½ limits how much the tax levy can be increased from year-to-year. The maximum amount a community can levy in any given year is called the “levy limit.”
Prop 2 ½ also caps the tax levy at 2.5% of the total full and fair cash value of all taxable real and personal property in Hingham. Because our tax levy is nowhere near this “levy ceiling,” the Town does not need to worry about this restriction.
Under Proposition 2 ½, a community’s levy limit increases automatically by two factors:
The 2.5% increase and the new growth number are both added to the prior year’s levy limit to reach the current year’s levy limit.
A community can exceed its levy limit with voter approval. Prop 2 ½ gives communities flexibility to permanently increase the levy limit through overrides to support municipal and school operations.
An override is a voter-approved, permanent property tax increase. It is designed to provide a community with the ability to generate sufficient revenues to fund recurring costs that are likely to continue into the future, such as annual operating expenses for educational and municipal services.
A “general override,” a “Proposition 2½ override,” or an “operating override” are all different names for the same thing.
By passing an override, the Town can assess taxes in excess of the automatic annual 2.5% increase and any increase due to new growth. An override results in a permanent increase in the levy limit and allows the Town to fund services and programs we believe the community expects and desires.
While an override results in a permanent tax increase that is used to fund recurring operational expenses, debt exclusions result in a temporary tax increase to pay the debt service from bonding for a specific capital project, such as building a new school.
For debt exclusions, the debt service costs are added to the levy limit for the life of the debt only (typically between 10-30 years). Thus, unlike overrides, debt exclusions do not become part of the base used to calculate future years’ levy limits.
Hingham voters approved three debt exclusions in 2022. The debt exclusions will fund a new elementary school to replace the Foster School ($113 million), a new Public Safety Facility on Route 3A ($47 million), and a new Town Pool located at the South Shore County Club ($8 million).
The entrance to Bare Cove Park Drive is off of Fort Hill Street, directly across the street from the West Hingham train station and next to Thomas Auto Body (15 Fort Hill Street). As you follow Bare Cove Park Drive, take your first right and bear left up the hill.
Vehicle Coverage Selection Page/Declaration Page indicating car is garaged in Hingham (Required only if registration does not indicate Hingham address)
All Hingham Residents with a valid Transfer Station Sticker will be charged for Appliances, Electronics, and C&D/Bulky Waste (Including Furniture) according to the updated rates approved by the Select Board on March 16, 2021, shown below:
Hingham residents will be allowed up to 3 cubic yards of bulky, construction, and demolition waste per week with a fee.
Note: Rubble is not accepted.
There is a limit of one (1) Residential Permit per household per year at no charge. There is a $25 charge for any additional Residential Permits per Hingham address. A $25 charge will also be applied for any replacement sticker.
You can apply for a sticker online here: https://www.hingham-ma.gov/334/Transfer-Station-Stickers (allow up to a week for processing) or in person at the Department of Public Works located 25 Bare Cove Park Drive. In person hours are Monday-Wednesday 8:00a to 4:00p and Thursday-Friday 7:30a - 4:00pm.
Yes, Hingham residents is $50 per calendar year, non-Hingham residents is $150 per calendar year.
Any vehicle disposing bulky, construction and/or demolition waste* must be weighed and pay the per ton fee at the scale - this includes all residential and commercial permits. Vehicles must also adhere to the cubic yard limit as indicated below:
*generated from Hingham only.
Bulky, Construction, and Demolition Waste (C&D) Disposal
All Hingham Residents and Commercial sticker holders will be charged for Appliances, Electronics, and C&D/Bulky Waste (including furniture) according to the updated rates approved by the Board of Selectmen on March 16, 2021, shown below:
All Commercial Vehicles will be charged according to the updated rates approved by the Board of Selectmen on March 16, 2021, shown below:
The bulky, construction, and demolition area is open when the Transfer Station is open. Hours are Thursdays through Sunday 7:00am to 4:00pm.
All CVP holders may dispose of up to 5 cubic yards of bulky, construction, and demolition waste per visit to the Transfer Station. Any loads with more than 5 cubic yards will be rejected. Additionally, any vehicle carrying loads will not be allowed trailers.
All Commercial Vehicle Permits (CVP) holders will pay a per ton fee of $320 for disposal of all bulky, construction, and demolition waste. A minimum charge of $45 will be collected for all weight under 300 pounds.
All payments required by these regulations and fees established by the Selectboard shall be made prior to disposal. All payments of the Transfer Station must be made with a debit or credit card (MasterCard or VISA).
Proof of residency is required, which is your name and address on license and vehicle registration, tax bill and utility bill. If vehicle is not registered in Hingham, you must also supply copies of your Hingham tax bill, year-round residential lease in the Town of Hingham or vehicle lease agreement. A company vehicle will require an authorized letter on company letterhead.
Hours of operation are Thursday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., weather permitting. Only good usable items please; no mattresses, bulky furniture, computers, paint or hazardous materials. No loitering, abusive language or unattended children. Respect for your neighbors and town employees are expected and required. Remember, the SWAP area can be a dangerous place for young children. Please keep them in your car. Swap Shop visit limit is ten minutes.
Latex Paint - Latex paint can be disposed of as trash if dry. To dry small amounts, remove lid and let the paint air dry in the can. For larger amounts, mix in kitty litter or pour one-inch layers of paint in a cardboard box lined with a plastic bag.
If latex paint is good usable paint: Recolor Paints - 149B Winter Street - Hanover, MA 02370 https://recyclingworksma.com/recycler/recolor-paints/ (small fee may be applied)
Oil-based Paint - Oil-based paint or stain is considered hazardous waste and is not accepted. Signup to attend a Hazardous Waste Day. For more info: https://ssrcoop.info/
To defer tax payments, you must make a direct rollover of your retirement funds to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or another type of retirement account with a financial institution. With a direct rollover, no tax is withheld and the entire taxable portion of your refund is transferred. If you have both taxable and nontaxable contributions, you may accept receipt of the nontaxable portion of your refund without tax consequence and the taxable portion may be rolled over.
Call the retirement office at 781-741-1478 for an appointment. If you are married, your spouse should accompany you. The forms can also be mailed.
William L. Foster Elementary School was built in 1951 and has had two additions/renovations in 1957 and 1974. An additional $3.5 million was invested to make various improvements between 2008 and 2010. Though the building has been well-maintained over the years, the outdated mechanical systems make it increasingly challenging to operate and maintain and the many interior classrooms and small communal spaces have a significant negative impact on the ability to deliver an educational program designed to meet the needs of students in the 21st century.
The 2017 School Building Committee or “Foster School Building Committee” as it is often called (“SBC”) was established by Hingham voters at the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. The establishment of a School Building Committee is a requirement to participate in the MSBA school building grant programs. A School Building Committee is responsible for all aspects of a school building project, as required by MSBA statutes and regulations. The SBC is directly responsible for exploring the feasibility of a potential school building project and oversight of design and construction work associated with the preferred option chosen by the SBC and supported by the MSBA.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (“MSBA”) is a quasi-independent government authority created to reform the process of funding capital improvement projects in the Commonwealth’s public schools. The MSBA strives to work with local communities to create affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient schools across Massachusetts. Additional information about the MSBA may be found on the MSBA website.
The funding that the MSBA contributes to school projects is significant. The source of MSBA funding is 1 cent of the sales tax charged in Massachusetts. For a project of this scale, the Town can expect a reimbursement in the tens of millions of dollars. For 2022, when the Foster project expects to receive final MSBA approval, the MSBA base reimbursement rate has been set at 36.89%. The actual reimbursement the Town receives will be determined once the project scope and budget is approved, taking into account any additional reimbursement points that may be available in connection with the pursuit of LEED certification, which confirms green and sustainable design and operational features, and an approved maintenance plan. The actual grant reimbursement is also offset by any costs deemed ineligible or that exceed the MSBA’s existing thresholds.
The SBC is committed to transparency and inclusiveness in how it oversees this project on behalf of Hingham residents. For the Foster project to be successful, it requires community input, support, and approval. The SBC is committed to transparency and inclusiveness in how it oversees this project on behalf of Hingham residents. For the Foster project to be successful, it requires community input, support, and approval. The SBC, working with our Owner’s Project Manager (“OPM”), PMA Consultants, and our Architect/Designer, Raymond Design Associates (“RDA”), has and will continue to reach out to the community as work progresses through the Schematic Design and Design Development phases of the project. There will be many opportunities for parents, educators and community members to provide critical input that will help inform the design of the new Foster Elementary School. Please continue to monitor this site and the SBC Facebook page for project news, updates and community outreach events.
With the completion of the Feasibility Phase in January 2022, Schematic Design work has begun and will continue into the late Spring of 2022. The goal of the SBC is to pursue an aggressive schedule during the planning and design phases so that a new school can be built and opened in September 2024. A warrant article will be offered at the April Town Meeting that will seek interim funding to complete design development and preparation of an early site work bid package pending MSBA Board approval. MSBA approval of the schematic design, scope and budget for the project is anticipated on August 31, 2022. Following that approval, a special Town Meeting will be held in late September or early October for consideration of a warrant article seeking to fund construction costs. If the proposed schedule remains on track, site preparation could begin during early winter 2022-2023, with vertical construction work beginning in late spring after a second round of bidding. Once the new school is substantially complete, the existing Foster school will be demolished and site work including parking and recreational space will be developed during the fall of 2024 and into 2025
Investing in our schools benefits the entire community. Community engagement is a shared responsibility in raising the next generation and according to the US Department of Education, school building infrastructure components are crucial for learning. Additionally, schools provide public common space, accessible for public meetings, voting, emergency shelters, and are available for use by community groups and organizations for programs and events held after school hours. The Foster school is, and will continue to be, an anchor for the Crow Point neighborhood and the greater north Hingham community. Good public schools, like we have in Hingham, are valuable for more than just the curriculum they deliver. They help sustain property values and entice new families to join the community. Finally, capital investments in buildings and infrastructure create lasting benefits to a community and to society in general, particularly when those investments help close achievement gaps and help bring members of a community together.
The School Building Committee (SBC) recognizes that there is a need for space for various community events, including athletic contests, artistic performances and large group assemblies. The proposed building design will include a section of the school that will be available for public use during non-school hours. It includes a large gym with bleachers and a cafeteria with a stage for concerts, performances and other presentations., The site will include an athletic field, softball diamond, tennis courts and an accessible playground, all of which will be available to the public during non-school hours.
The current plan is for construction to begin in the Spring of 2023 and continue until August of 2024. The goal is for students and staff to be in the new building in September 2024. Demolition of the current school will occur in the Summer of 2024 and additional site work will continue into early 2025.
No, students will remain in the current building during construction until the new school is open, which is anticipated to be in September 2024. Limiting disruption by allowing students and staff to remain in the current building is the same approach that was used when Hingham built the new middle school.
During construction, the existing athletic fields and tennis courts will be unavailable as they will be part of the construction zone. Play space and play structures will be relocated to other parts of the school property to allow for recess and other activities. After the new school is occupied and the site work is complete, the property will include an athletic field, softball diamond, and tennis courts, which will be available to the public during non-school hours.
Yes, a traffic study was done in the Fall of 2021. During construction, a separate access drive will be added to the left of the school for all construction and emergency vehicles. The construction area will be fenced off and secured at all times.
The SBC assisted with an enrollment study undertaken by the school department in 2018 using a well-known consultant, New England School Development Council (NESDEC). Using the completed enrollment study, the MSBA performed its own independent study resulting in a design enrollment of up to 605 students. Currently there are 419 students at Foster, which is down approximately 70 students over the past year due to the COVID pandemic. The allowance for an anticipated growing enrollment will accommodate additional children who live in the Foster School district and will allow Hingham Public Schools to meet its goal of expanding its Pre-K and Special Education programs. Additional details about these proposed programs are provided in the Education Plan, a required document that was prepared in connection with the MSBA process.
The anticipated base reimbursement rate for this project is 36.89%, which was newly set for 2022, the year the MSBA project funding agreement is expected to be executed. According to the MSBA, reimbursement rates for MSBA approved, eligible school construction and renovation projects are calculated pursuant to a formula that is established by Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 70B section 10 (M.G.L. c. 70B § 10). The formula takes various socioeconomic factors of the Town into account to determine its base reimbursement rate.
The SBC is planning to build an all-electric building that will meet the needs of students and our community for decades to come in an effort to achieve the Town’s sustainable development goals . The SBC’s commitment in this area supports the Hingham Climate Action Planning Committee’s goal of significantly reducing the Town’s carbon emissions by 2040. The proposed building design is situated facing south to maximize the sun’s positive impact. This positioning enables the architect to incorporate a design that includes a solar-ready roof and several south facing windows and light-wells to carry natural light to all levels of the building. The SBC has already engaged with members of the Climate Action Planning Committee, Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant, the Hingham Net-Zero group and the Conservation department to help us ensure our school design achieves sustainability goals while protecting precious natural resources that are prevalent at the Foster site.
Foster School is located on a thirty-nine acre parcel of land, most of which consists of various ecosystems, which will provide a rich outdoor learning experience for students. The site also includes several constraints, including wetlands, a steep hillside, tidal marsh and flood zone area. The SBC believes that its preferred option, chosen from among 10 different possibilities after months of consideration, is the best option for taking full advantage of the natural elements of the site while also minimizing the impact to the surrounding natural areas. The proposed design faces south, which takes advantage of the southern sun exposure and views of the marsh. The preferred option chosen by the SBC addresses the projected 2070 flood zone concerns by raising the grade of the Foster School site several feet above the current level of most of the existing site. This raised grade will place the new school above the the projected 2070 storm surge flood plain level.
It’s difficult to compare the two building projects. The school building will be significantly larger than the Public Safety building and is being constructed on a particularly challenging site that contains several physical constraints and natural resource areas that need to be protected. The school will have specifically designed spaces to accommodate and support 21st century learning for a design enrollment of 605 K-5 students, plus a pre-K population and Kids-in-Action programming. A sizable portion of the Public Safety facility will be garage bays that will house fire trucks and ambulances. The level of detailed design between the two is not comparable.
If not now, when? Construction costs will never again be as low as they were 10 years ago, and they won’t be decreasing any time soon according to the professional cost estimators engaged to work on our project. Hingham has been awarded a significant grant to pursue the building project now. If the community does not vote to fund the project, Hingham loses that contribution and the opportunity to address the significant issues that have impacted Foster students and staff for many years. To be considered for an MSBA project grant in the future, Hingham would have to go back to the beginning and start the process again, which could take 5 years or even longer and there’s no guaranty we would be chosen again.
The reality is that this school project needed to be done over a decade ago. The 2006 School Facilities Study recommended the pursuit of a project to address the then-existing issues that negatively impacted the delivery of curriculum. In the ensuing years, mechanical systems have continued to deteriorate and falter, requiring costly repairs and even evacuation of the building.
Given the condition of Foster, can we afford to wait any longer? We also now have grant funding from MSBA. Are we willing to risk waiting and lose the opportunity to save Hingham taxpayers tens of millions of dollars? If we were to choose to wait and pursue a project independent of the MSBA, it would be no less costly, and we would lose even more time while students and staff wait for a solution. If the Foster building project does not move forward now, the Town would also have to invest significantly in the upkeep, maintenance, and repair of the current Foster building.
The overwhelming feedback from constituents questioned was that it is important to the Crow Point neighborhood, as well as nearby neighborhoods, to keep Foster and its successor a neighborhood school that allows for a walking community of students. The school will also include a gymnasium, cafetorium, multi-purpose room, softball field, and tennis courts that are all a benefit to the wider community. In addition, the new building will provide for an expansion of the integrated preschool program, which will allow enhanced early childhood education for the whole community. Space in the new school will also allow the expansion of the Kids-in-Action (KIA) program providing much needed additional space for this popular and revenue-generating before and after-school program.
In the MSBA regulations there are certain costs that are ineligible for reimbursement with grant dollars. For instance, the MSBA defines any construction cost above $360/square foot as ineligible for reimbursement, but the construction costs for the elementary schools approved by the MSBA over the past five years have averaged well over that threshold. The MSBA also limits its reimbursement participation for site work to 8% of the building construction cost. Given its unique physical characteristics, the Foster project is unusual in that it will require much more site work than all but five of the last thirty-eight elementary schools funded by the MSBA over the past five years. Only about a quarter of the required site costs for this project will be eligible for reimbursement since they exceed 8% of the building cost by a wide margin.
This project does include a number of other ineligible cost items (e.g., the cost of technology and furnishings that exceed the reimbursable allowances for these categories), but these are consistent with every other school building project undertaken under the MSBA core building program and are appropriate to accommodate Hingham’s educational program.
Though the school has been designed primarily to meet the needs of the educational program, it also allows for use as community space. For example, the gym includes space to accommodate bleacher seating, which is not a reimbursable expense but allows for its use by the community. SBC discussed at some length lessons learned from prior school building projects in Hingham. There have been complaints for 13 years about the shallow sideline space and limited bleacher seating available in the East Elementary gym. Providing for the additional space will better serve the intended uses by students and the larger community.
Another example of a potentially non-reimbursable cost would be the cost of the demolition of the existing school If we were able to build on a different site (which doesn’t exist), If we were to build in another location, any acquisition cost for the land would also not be reimbursable by MSBA. These would be additional non-reimbursable costs to the Hingham taxpayer in addition to the costs of the school and site development. As part of the contemplated project being pursued, the demolition of the existing Foster school will be fully reimbursable to the extent of Hingham’s approved reimbursement rate.
Remember that the school was designed through a thoughtful visioning process that included students, educators, and families. The District then developed a comprehensive Education Plan as required by the DESE and MSBA, and the design has evolved from the underlying guiding principles contained in that plan.
The programmatic spaces in the design reflect the District’s detailed Educational Plan, which is a requirement of participating in the MSBA grant program. The MSBA takes the compilation of an Educational Plan very seriously given that it serves as the foundation for all the planning and detailed design of both the school and the site that follows. In Foster’s case, the MSBA carefully reviewed the District’s initial Educational Plan and requested clarifications and refinements. In the end, it was approved only after two detailed reviews by the MSBA. Only then was the District allowed to proceed into the schematic design phase via an MSBA Board of Directors vote.
No two MSBA-funded elementary schools look the same, though they all must conform to MSBA Guidelines and approved modifications. The new school design followed prescriptive MSBA guidelines for elementary schools, but like all other MSBA projects, it includes a limited amount of additional programmatic spaces to meet the unique needs of Hingham’s Educational Program (e.g. the Gymnasium bleachers, the Multi-Purpose Room for KIA and Field Science, Administrative Spaces for the Special Education program, etc.). The entire design being presented to the voters has been reviewed and approved by the MSBA.
The total square footage of the proposed Foster building is 126,385.
As noted above, the MSBA has prescriptive guidelines for building elementary schools including the sizes and types of various rooms. Some of the space design can vary depending on the District’s specific educational program. There is allowable square footage (most of which is reimbursable, some of which is not) in the design to accommodate some areas beyond MSBA guidelines including additional administrative and special education space, Pre-K classrooms, space for an expanded KIA program and a larger gym to provide wider sidelines and space for fan bleachers.
The MSBA provides a ‘broad brush’ square footage allotment per pupil in a District’s Space Summary (e.g., 605 K-5 pupils) by way of an algorithm, but it is only generated to set a parameter against which to review and finalize the eventual square footage required to accommodate the proposed Educational Program. It is safe to say that every elementary school approved by the MSBA has exceeded this ‘starting point.’
As an example, the 63,843 square feet of ‘net program space’ that came out of the MSBA’s algorithm for Foster was based on 605 K-5 students, a generic Special Education program, and no Pre-Kindergarten program. The approved net square footage, accommodating the District’s Educational Plan is 84,753. Reimbursable program-related overages include 11,850 sf for five Pre-Kindergarten CR’s, a Spanish CR, an English Language Learners small group room, and a Computer Lab, along with synchronizing up the number of classrooms per grade. Other approved programmatic square footage includes 3,690 sf for the school’s Special Education program (all of which is reimbursable), 1,000 sf for the aforementioned gymnasium bleachers, 1,570 sf for Special Education administrative offices, 2,500 sf for the revenue-generating Kids-in-Action multi-purpose room and office, and two other small staff spaces. When mechanical, circulation, and other ‘back of house’ areas are accounted for, the Foster school has a ‘net to gross’ ratio of 1.49 (bringing the proposed gross square footage up to its 126,385), which is under the MSBA allowable ratio of 1.50, demonstrating an efficient plan layout.
What additional operational costs will there be relating to the new elementary school? Is there an estimate of operational cost savings delivered by energy or other efficiencies built into the facility? Are there additional operational costs incurred for staffing or new programming that will increase the annual school budget?
The maintenance costs for the existing Foster Elementary School are significant. Specific training of the custodians is needed to maintain the aging boilers.
The heating system in general, as well as plumbing, and electrical systems, require constant repairs, most notably in connection with the aging electrical system and failing steam pipe distribution infrastructure.
The building is often too hot or too cold at various times of the year depending on several factors. At times, the students have been evacuated due to failing heat and other infrastructure issues. During the height of the COVID pandemic, because there was inadequate ventilation in several classrooms, St. Jerome, a closed catholic grade school, was leased to house portions of Foster’s grade levels. Students were bussed to Weymouth daily for months to attend “Foster North.” This was a costly and unfavorable situation that could not be avoided.
Though the new school will be 75% larger than Foster is currently, the ‘cost per square foot’ of utilities for the new school will be less than it has been over the past three years (not including FY 2020 which was COVID-related), AND it includes much greater ventilation and full air-conditioning which will have a positive impact on learning during the fall and spring when temperatures outside can be quite high.
In terms of changes in staffing needs for the new building, to the extent that there is new special education programming, then staffing related to the new programs will be needed. No other significant changes are expected at this time. As enrollment grows as expected over time, additional teachers may be needed and consideration of that would be part of the regular annual budget process and not driven by this project specifically.
Costs for Kids in Action (KIA) are currently covered by tuition and the program generates positive revenue. In addition to covering its own operational costs, the program provides an annual contribution as an offset to the school department budget. Currently, we do not have sufficient building space to provide for all the children who wish to attend KIA and have a waiting list. Expansion of the program to KIA will serve to accommodate many more Hingham families in need of this service.
For non-sped preschool students, tuition covers costs. Services for special education students will be paid by the school district budget. This is true regardless of whether there is a new school.
The redistricting of the other elementary schools to ensure class sizes are comparable across the four elementary schools is not a consideration for now. Hingham Public Schools values its neighborhood schools. We currently do not have overcrowding in any schools. However, as the student population is expected to increase, the proposed new elementary school will provide flexibility to ensure overcrowding does not become a problem in the future. The school committee has a policy on preferred class size enrollments that allows for comparable services across the District.
Will out-of-district tuition go down as a result of Special Ed programming at the new elementary school? Will additional SPED programming built into the facility enable more students to stay in district and therefore save on out of district costs?
The students in need of out-of-district placement require the program and services that are provided. The District currently lacks space to develop substantially separate special education programs. The new elementary school will provide specific spaces for the development of such programs that will allow for some of these student needs to be met in the district. These are programs that we have never been able to offer in the past due to a lack of available space.
The District values the contributions of all our students. By ensuring we are providing more opportunities for meeting the needs of our students with disabilities, our community, in addition to our students, is enhanced.
Furniture and fixtures are reimbursed at a certain rate (a maximum of $1,200 per pupil). The current building likely does not have any furniture that would be reusable in the new building. Any furniture and equipment anticipated to be utilized in the new school needs to be purchased as part of this project to be eligible for reimbursement.
We will staff for the enrollment needs of the school building at the given time. The staffing and the proposed budgeting will reflect then-current enrollment.
The SBC looked at 11 different configurations for the building and the site as part of its Feasibility process. (Options A though I plus G.1 and H.1)
The SBC’s decision to pursue Option F (the preferred option and current design plan) is thoroughly documented in the two attached Sections from the District’s “Preferred Schematic Report” - submitted to the MSBA on January 6th, 2022. The MSBA endorsed the SBC’s selection and granted it permission to pursue the development of Option F in its Schematic Design phase.
It was the least expensive of the final options, while providing the best site layout with the most exterior play and learning space and optimal use of the site’s natural attributes. It was clearly the ‘best value’ for the town.
Per the project’s professional cost estimator:
“The current market conditions are causing difficulties for cost estimators and, in particular, relating to bid analysis. However, our cost estimates on large projects in the Northeast are holding up well against overall bid ranges and against low bids.
That said, on several high-profile projects recently, we have seen a concerning trend which has led us to do some deeper investigations, including sharing appropriate discussions with other cost estimating companies, large subcontractors, and construction managers to establish rational explanations.”
Below is a summary of the issues which are causing this current volatility – some issues have been apparent for a few months, but others have become known more recently.