Town of Hopkinton Finance Overview & Metrics

For Finance questions, email Town Chief Financial Officer Tim O'Leary here


Hopkinton’s Overall Condition as an Economic Enterprise:  Healthy, Sound


Creditworthiness

Hopkinton’s bond rating is AAA, the highest rating awarded by Standard and Poors.  Ratings are produced each time the Town undertakes a borrowing of $10 million or more.  To see the latest bond rating transmittal letter click here, and for the rating report click here. [links pending permission from S&P]

With a AAA bond rating, Hopkinton is able to borrow at the lowest possible rates.  In its last borrowing, on June 16, 2020, Hopkinton issued $9,500,000 in general obligation bonds at an effective interest rate of 1.80%.  Details on the borrowing can be found here. 

To support financial stability, as recommended for municipalities by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and consistent with Town policies, Hopkinton maintains financial reserves intended to help the Town weather economic downturns or other emergencies.  As of 04/30/2021 the unrestricted General Fund Stabilization balance was $3,897,555, 4% of the fiscal year 2021 Operating Budget.  Town policies target a General Fund Stabilization balance at 5% of the General Fund Operating Budget.  Additionally, Hopkinton has a Capital Stabilization Fund that could be used for capital projects, with a 04/31/2021 balance of $338,205.


Hopkinton’s Operating Budget

Hopkinton’s Operating Budget for fiscal year 2022, commencing on July 1, 2021, authorizes spending of $98.7 million, with $80.6 million (82%) funded by property taxes, $9.0 (8%) funded from net State Aid, $6.5 million (7%) from excise tax and other local receipts, and $2.6 million (3%) from cash remaining from prior fiscal years.

Spending includes $54.6 million (55%) to support the Hopkinton Public Schools and Keefe Technical School, $19.7 million (20%) for all other Town operating departments, $13.8 million (14%) for employee benefits and insurance covering the schools and other Town operating departments, $7.5 million (8%) for repayment of principal and interest on borrowings for Town capital projects and equipment, $1.8 million (2%) in cash-funded (pay as you go) capital equipment and projects, and $0.4 million (<1%) toward funding long term employee retirement health care costs (OPEB). 

To see the fiscal year 2022 General Government Sources and Uses of Funds Budget Summary, click here.

For a detailed view of the fiscal year 2022 departmental line by line budget, click here.


Hopkinton’s Tax Base

As discussed in the Operating Budget section, 82% of the funds to support Town general government operations in fiscal year 2022 will come from property taxes, including taxes on real property (e.g., land and buildings) and from taxes on other property or equipment owned by businesses.  Based on the most recent round of annual property assessments, the 2021 value of all taxable property in Hopkinton is $4,501,937,561, up 5% from 2020, and up 65% from 2011.  Taxable residential real property (real estate) makes up 84% of Hopkinton's property tax base, and therefore the tax base is highly sensitive to even small percentage changes in the residential real property category, while very large percentage changes in the commercial and industrial categories have small impacts on the tax base.  To see the breakdown by property category in table and graph form, click here.  To see the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Tax Rate Recapitulation data sheet for Hopkinton, 2021, click here

The growth in property valuation over recent years has been substantially driven by new residential construction, by increases in the market value of existing homes in Hopkinton, and by improvements in the Town’s taxation of infrastructure owned by private utility companies.


Hopkinton’s General Government Debt Profile

Hopkinton finances most major construction, improvement, and large capital equipment purchases through the issuance of municipal bonds.  As of [insert date here] the Town’s total debt was $105.0 million, with $86.6 million (82%) tied to general government projects

To see a breakdown of total debt by all funds, click here.

To see a breakdown of fiscal year 2022 principal and interest payments on total debt by all funds, click here

To see a timeline of the Town's General Fund Debt Repayment of Principal and Interest, click here.

Large General Fund projects with outstanding debt include $30.4 million for construction of the Marathon Elementary School, $16.5 million for construction of the Department of Public Works Facility, and $8.6 million for the Public Library renovation.  These three projects account for 64% of all current General Fund debt outstanding.  To see the complete list of general government debt projects and associated payment information, click here.

To see a schedule of future payment for General Fund debt, click here.

Hopkinton’s ability to incur debt for public projects is limited by a provision of Massachusetts law (MGL Chapter 44 Section 10, link here), which limits debt to 5% of assessed valuation.  With a current assessed valuation of $4,504,452,122, Hopkinton has a debt limit of $225.2 million.  With a current debt level of $105.0 million, Hopkinton is at 47% of its statutory debt limit level.  The statutory limit on additional new debt at this time is an additional $120.2 million.

It is noteworthy that projections for future school construction spending have been discussed by the School Committee with some spending scenarios approaching and perhaps hitting Hopkinton’s statutory debt ceiling, depending on the timing of proposed expenditures. 


Impact of Spending on the Individual Property Owner

An individual property tax bill is impacted by three factors: 1) the assessed value of the individual property, 2) the total assessed value of all property within the Town, and 3) the budget passed by the Town meeting; in this relationship:

   (Assessed value of individual property / Assessed value of all taxable property in Town) * Amount to be raised from property tax = Individual property tax amount

By the formula, each taxpayer is billed for a share of the total amount to be raised from property tax based on the proportion of the Town’s total pool of taxable property that they own.  Three specific things impact a tax bill: 1) whether the taxpayer owns property with a higher or lower assessed value; whether the value of all the property in Town is growing or shrinking, which impacts the share or proportion of tax that each individual property owner is responsible for; and, 3) the amount of funding that the Town Meeting decides to raise from property taxes. 

-Share of a new expenditure to the average taxpayer ($655,500 value home): $655,500 valuation / $4,504,452,122 total valuation = 0.01455%.  Restated, the "average" taxpayer would be responsible for $14.55 in annual property tax for every $100,000 in additional Town spending funded by property tax.

-Amount one cent on the Tax Rate Raised in fiscal year 2021:  $76,939,042 raised / $17.08 tax rate = $45,046 for every penny added

-Year 1 cost of $10M in new 30 year Borrowing Costs in Principal & Interest @ current 1.86% interest: $758,969; $110 for the average taxpayer ($655.5K home); tax impact 1%

-Year 1 cost of $100M in new 30 year Borrowing Costs in Principal & Interest @ current 1.86% interest: $7.59M; $1,100 for the average taxpayer ($655.5K home); tax impact 10%


Long Term Liabilities Other than Debt

Town of Hopkinton employees do not participate and are not covered by Social Security.  Instead, they participate in the Middlesex County Retirement System, which provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to approximately 5,000 retirees and 10,000 active employees of 31 Towns and 39 Districts and Authorities within Middlesex County.

Hopkinton currently has 166 retirees in the system, and 345 active enrolled participants.  In a substantial financial benefit to cities and towns, the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for teacher pensions, so the Town liability excludes teacher pension costs.  The latest report on the system, based on a biennial valuation as of January 1, 2020, shows that current and former employees have earned benefits with an estimated present value of $77,788,522 while net assets in the plan to cover those future costs are $50,770,346, with a total unfunded pension liability of $27,579,300.  In fiscal year 2022, Town Meeting approved a pension contribution of $2,910,419 which included $962,721 to cover the benefits earned by current Town employees in the current year and $1,999,418 to pay down the unfunded liability that had accumulated over many decades.  With continuation of these aggressive contributions, actuarial forecasts estimate that the pension plan will be fully funded in 2037.  To see the latest Middlesex County Retirement System pension actuarial report, in which Hopkinton is covered in alphabetical order on page 45, click here.

Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) refers to post-employment benefits other than pensions. OPEB generally takes the form of health insurance and dental, vision, prescription, or other health care benefits provided to eligible retirees, and in some cases their beneficiaries. OPEB is part of the compensation that employees earn each year, even though these benefits are not received until after employment has ended. Therefore, as benefits accrue, they are treated as a cost of providing public services today, and are presented that way on the Town’s accounting statements.

In 2012, the Town established the OPEB Trust Fund and began funding it in FY 2014, with the idea of accumulating funds to offset future costs as benefits are earned by employees. OPEB Actuarial Valuation Reports have been completed and updated periodically.   In the last report, the liability for benefits earned as of June 30, 2020 was $27,117,158.  As of March 31, 2021, Hopkinton’s OPEB Liability Trust Fund had a reported balance of $4,016,782 for a funding level of 14.81% of the liability, leaving an unfunded OPEB liability of $23,100,376.

Funds being accumulated for this purpose are invested with a moderate risk/return profile, reflecting the long-term nature of the investment; with 54% in common stock, 35% in bonds, and 11% in hedge fund investment.  On May 8, 2021, Town Meeting approved a fiscal year 2022 additional contribution to the Trust Fund of $410,000.  The actuary retained by the Town to support OPEB planning has determined that the current contribution level of $410,000 for FY 2022, escalated by 2.5% per year, would result in full funding of the OPEB liability in 2050.  To see the actuarial report on the OPEB liability, click here.



Integrity of Financial Systems and Reporting

Financial Statements for the Town of Hopkinton are audited each year to ensure that they are comprehensive, accurate, and timely.  Roselli, Clark, and Associates, Certified Public Accountants, provided an unmodified (clean) audit opinion on financial statements for the year ending 06/31/2020.  To see Hopkinton’s Financial Statements and the related auditor’s opinion from Roselli, Clark & Associates, Certified Public Accountants, click here.  

 Cash Flow to Support Operations as of 03/31/2021

Cash liquidity is excellent, per the following metrics:
     -Amount of cash on deposit, 03/31/2021: $49,371,922, 53% of fiscal year 2021 operating budget
     -Trust Fund deposits: $2,816,781
     -Stabilization (reserve) Funds, General: $3,897,555, 4% of fiscal year 2021 operating budget
     -Stabilization Funds, All: $7,313,251;  8% of fiscal year 2021 operating budget
To see the most recent Quarterly Deposit & Investment Report for the Town, click here.

General Fund collections are timely and effective, per the following metrics:
     -Last full year property tax billings, 2021: $[TBD]
  • Number/amount of property tax > 90 days overdue: [TBD], $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings
  • Number/amount of property tax > 1 year overdue: [TBD], $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings
     -Last full year motor vehicle excise tax billings; 2021: $[TBD]
  • Number/amount of excise tax > 90 days overdue: $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings
  • Number/amount of excise tax > 1 year overdue: $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings


The Water Enterprise Fund

The Water Enterprise Fund is stable, with timely and effective collections, per the following metrics:
     -Retained Earnings Balance, 06/30/2020: $991,343, 31% of the fiscal year 2021 enterprise budget ($3,164,164)
     -Water Enterprise Expense Budget for fiscal year 2022: $2,584,320
     -Last full year Water Enterprise user fee billings; 2020: $[TBD]
  • 03/31/2021 amount of Water user fee billings > 90 days overdue: $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings
  • 03/31/2021 amount of Water user fee billings > 1 year overdue: $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings
The latest (2020) water quality report can be found here.

User fee rate projections are uncertain
at this time.  The Water Enterprise faces a decision about whether to continue producing and treating water for user consumption from local wells, whether to switch to the purchase of water from regional partners, or some combination of the two options.  Each path involves substantial and highly variable capital cost estimates in the five to ten year timeframe; therefore, the decision about sourcing water supply will have a major impact on required water user fee rate adjustments. 

To see Commonwealth of Massachusetts guidance on administration of Enterprise Funds, including the Water Enterprise Fund, click here.



The Sewer Enterprise Fund

The Sewer Enterprise Fund is stable, with timely and effective collections, per the following metrics:
     -Retained Earnings Balance, 06/30/2020: $673,831, 25% of the fiscal year 2021 enterprise budget ($2,746,890)
     -Sewer Enterprise Expense Budget for fiscal year 2022:  $2,409,133
     -Last full year Sewer Enterprise user fee billings; 2020: $[TBD]
  • 03/31/2021 amount of Sewer user fee billings > 90 days overdue: $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings
  • 03/31/2021 amount of Water user fee billings > 1 year overdue: $[TBD], [TBD]% of last full fiscal year billings
User fee rate increases are projected to be in the 2-3% range for the foreseeable future, covering status quo operations with increases expected for inflation in staff costs, utilities, supplies and other market expenses.

To see Commonwealth of Massachusetts guidance on administration of Enterprise Funds, including the Sewer Enterprise Fund, click here.


Community Preservation Fund Category Balances, 05/08/2021

The Community Preservation Act (CPA), created in 2000, is statewide enabling legislation and a smart growth tool that helps local communities, through state funding, to acquire and preserve open space and historic sites, create and support affordable housing and develop outdoor recreational facilities.  It is funded through a surcharge of up to 3% of the real estate tax levy on real property. 

Hopkinton adopted this Act by a ballot vote in 2001 at a surcharge of 2% on real property (real estate) taxes. The first $100,000 of a home’s assessed value is exempt from the surcharge. Local revenue is supplemented through a state Community Preservation Trust Fund (state revenue raised through fees charged at Massachusetts Registries of Deeds). The percentage of state disbursements changes from year to year based on the amount in the statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund. The match was 28.6% of locally raised in FY 2021 and is estimated to be 32.3% in FY 2022.

Community Preservation Funds are managed by the Community Preservation Committee.  Projects proposed by the Committee require Town Meeting Approval.  After Town Meeting voted to fund seven new projects on May 8, 2021, a total of $6.3 million is available to fund future projects, in the following categories:
                 
Category Available for Future Projects
Open Space $1,111,903       
Historic Resources $603,235       
Community Housing $923,220       
Recreation $224,981       
Budgeted Reserve $867,675       
Undesignated $2,561,560       
   Total Available $6,292,574       


Financial Transparency
For a complete listing of all payments to vendors and suppliers made in the last full fiscal year (FY 2020), click here. [coming soon...]

For a complete listing of employee salaries for the last full fiscal year, FY 2020, click here.


Emerging Issues

School Construction: Hopkinton has been admitted into the Massachusetts School Building Authority competition process for a replacement project for the Elmwood School, opening the possibility of partial State funding on a project that would otherwise be fully funded by the community.  Elmwood is a 1965 vintage school serving grades two and three, with 25 classrooms, 559 students, and 78 staff members.  A Special Town Meeting on May 8, 2021 authorized the use of up to $1 million in funding from a host community agreement which is in the School Department Stabilization Fund for use by a newly constituted Hopkinton Elementary School Building Committee No. 2 to develop a feasibility study on this project, for supporting information click here.  Information about prospective cost and prospective tax impact of various options will be presented on this page as they are developed.


Key Documents

The Hopkinton Appropriation Committee develops comprehensive annual reports to support decision making by Annual Town Meeting.  You can find Appropriation Committee Reports here.

Hopkinton’s Financial Policies can be found here.

Hopkinton’s Five Year Capital Plan can be found here.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the financial regulator for the 351 municipalities in the state, including the Town of Hopkinton.  The State's Department of Revenue, Division of Local Services, provides a plethora of regulatory and policy guidance, and an assortment of best practice information, which can be found at: www.mass.gov/municipal-finance-best-practices


Finance Team White Papers

Arriving June 2021 - The Dominance of Residential Property in Hopkinton’s Tax Base and Budget

Arriving September 2021 - The Link Between Town Spending and Your Tax Bill

Arriving December 2021 - The Level of Current Town Debt; Limits on Future Debt

Arriving March 2022 - The Mechanics of Municipal Debt: Bonding Terms & Practices

Arriving June 2022 -  Residential Growth: Boon or Burden?

Arriving September 2022 -  Management of Hopkinton’s Long Term Liabilities