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Opinion: A message from the Hingham School Committee

Opinion: A message from the Hingham School Committee

Dear Hingham Public Schools Community,

I am writing on behalf of the Hingham School Committee to inform the community of decisions made at Town Meeting that affect the school department’s budget for the 2024-2025 school year. At the April 24 town meeting, a motion was made and then approved that would transfer $2 million from the town’s fund balance to increase the Hingham Public Schools budget for fiscal year 2025 to $70 million. During discussion of the motion, residents advocated for additional funding to (1) increase compensation proposals in contract negotiations, particularly for paraprofessionals, and (2) restore some of the positions that have been removed by layoffs in the proposed FY25 budget.

At our meeting last night, the School Committee unanimously affirmed our commitment to advancing these priorities. However, it is important to clarify certain constraints on how additional funds can be allocated:

● About $1.4 million of the $2 million must be set aside for out-of-district tuition. As part of the waiver approved last spring, the School Committee, Special Council and Advisory Committee (AdCom) agreed to a financial management plan (also called a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU). In that agreement, the parties agreed to limit growth in the school department’s budget to 3.5 percent for the next four years and not seek additional votes during that period. The agreement also states that out-of-district (OOD) tuition increases for special education students would be paid by the city using fund balances if the school budget could not support those costs. With this increased budget, schools can now cover this $1.4 million OOD tuition cost. After individual conversations with numerous city officials, it was determined that under the terms of the memorandum of understanding, this amount was to be funded from the additional $2 million approved at city meeting. This leaves the school committee with approximately $562,000 to allocate to other budget priorities.

● Additional funds should not be used for recurring costs in future years. The funding approved at Town Meeting only applies to FY25, and there is no guarantee the remaining $562,000 will be available in subsequent years. Therefore, the school committee must prioritize one-time expenses. For example, any positions restored with these funds are at risk of being eliminated again next year if there is not new funding to support them. Additional salary and wage increases – beyond those already presented by the school committee during contract negotiations – also constitute recurring costs that would not be incurred in subsequent years. However, the school committee is exploring a range of options to bring to the bargaining table to increase paraprofessional compensation without incurring annual costs.

The School Committee appreciates the community’s tremendous support for our schools, students and staff. In the coming weeks, we will continue to negotiate with the Hingham Education Association, hoping to reach an agreement on contracts that provide competitive compensation to our dedicated employees, while upholding our fiscal responsibility to the residents of Hingham.

For more information on contract negotiations, please visit our website. As always, you can contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
Nes Correnti
Chairman of the Hingham School Committee