In a joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Advisory Board this week, Town Manager Philip Lemnios presented a level-funded $43.6 fiscal 2022 budget proposal, representing an increase of $1.5 million, or 3.68 percent, over the current fiscal year’s $42.02 million budget.
“We’re now in the season leading up to town meeting,” Lemnios said, at which time residents will consider and vote on the new budget proposal.
The proposed operating budget for town departments is $27.66 million, which includes $11.32 million for general government and $16.33 million for the schools and comprises 59 percent of the operational budget. These amounts represent an increase of $592,585, or 2.19 percent, over the fiscal 2021 budget.
The increases would be in line with the town’s goals, according to Lemnios. “For the last several years the 2 percent range has been our sweet spot when it comes to operating budget increases,” he said. “When it goes beyond that, we start outstripping our revenue capacity. That could lead to problems, such as staffing issues.”
Seventy-three percent of the town’s revenue comes from property taxes; 13 percent from local receipts from motor vehicle excise taxes, building permit fees, and other sources; and 14 percent from state aid.
“Hull taxpayers are bearing a higher burden as state aid continues to decrease, in part due to lower school enrollments,” Lemnios said. The town also has a small commercial tax base from which to draw.
The overall fiscal 2022 budget proposal includes not only the operational budget for the town departments and the schools but also expenditures for: health insurance and insurance covering town properties as well as pensions, debt service, capital repairs and improvements; intergovernmental charges, including county and charter school and MBTA assessments; overlay (an account established annually to fund anticipated property tax abatements, exemptions, and uncollected taxes in that year); and snow removal costs.
Other key expenditure items for fiscal 2022 include a 5 percent hike in health insurance costs, $275,000 for recurring small capital projects, and $250,000 to cover an estimated snow removal deficit.
Life and health insurance costs total $5.9 million (a 5 percent increase over fiscal 2021); pensions, $4.2 million (roughly the same as the current fiscal year); and debt service, $3.7 million (a 14.03 percent increase).
The Advisory Board will hold public hearings on the proposed new budget, leading up to this year’s town meeting on a date yet to be decided.
Lemnios expressed appreciation for Finance Director Michael Buckley’s efforts in assisting him and other Town Hall staff members in developing the budget.
The selectmen’s chairwoman, Jennifer Constable, commended all those involved for “presenting a budget without much pain during COVID.”
In other business at the meeting:
* A discussion related to a warrant article calling for the inclusion of gender-neutral language in the town bylaws was postponed because a full board was not present.
* The board was expected to go into executive session to discuss topics related to the sale, lease, and disposition of real property – railroad bed – and consider strategy with respect to litigation, possible subjects being ExteNet vs. Hull and Green et al. vs. ExteNet and Hull.
Sidebar: Departments’ tasks are many, sometimes mundane, but vital
Town Manager Philip Lemnios, in a recent budget presentation, gave a rundown of some of the tasks typically performed by various town departments. These include:
* maintaining birth and death certificates
* overseeing all elections and town meetings
* inspecting 1,200 rental units
* issuing more than 1,400 building permits
* serving more than 18,000 meals on wheels
* providing more than 4,600 senior van trips
* plowing more than 50 miles of roads
* maintaining all parks and fields
* cleaning and maintaining an extensive storm drain system
* responding to more than 2,600 calls for Fire Department service
* managing the town’s emergency response program
* responding to more than 15,000 Police Department calls for service
* providing for parking and traffic control
* overseeing environmental regulations
* assessing more than 6,000 properties
* providing for land use management and zoning control