School budget & OPEB

This exchange took place under the comments to the post about the MMA annual meeting, and are worthy of more people seeing them –

  1. Pete-

    I find it absolutely stunning that there is no coverage of school budgets, in particular the relationship of cost to rising and falling student populations. School spending represents, far and away, the largest item in any town or city budget, yet no one seems to want to deal with the issue. Also, I see nothing on the agenda that addresses the massive shortfall in the funding of employee benefits. I note that there’s a session on “Lessons and land mines”. Is this a tutorial to help public officials avoid facing the really important fiscal issues? Very disappointing.

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Selectman Osler “Pete” Peterson

    Thanks for your comments. i am catching up,so please excuse my delay.

    First, town officials have absolutely no say or control over school budgets, so I would guess that is the reason that there are no MMA seminars on school budgets. The town as a whole can only approve or not the total school budget at the town meeting, but once a budget amount is approved by the town meeting it is then up to the superintendent as to how those monies get spent. While I am exceedingly interested in the school budget issues you raise, please know that i already probably spend about 20 hours a week already just trying to do my volunteer job as a selectman (and i also have a full time job as an attorney), so I have yet to find the extra time to study the school budget issues. Also, those issues really are the purview of the school committee, not the selectmen, despite my interest.

    I see that the school committee meeting to discuss the budget got postponed by the storm, and so i encourage you to go to the re-scheduled meeting to raise your school budget issues with them.

    Second, I certainly did hear about OPEB liabilities again this year at the MMA annual meeting, although I did hear more about it last year. The MMA is seeking to be part of the solution, crafting legislation to improve the OPEB situation. Governor Patrick’s commission on the OPEB issue made recommendations over a year ago, but the MMA opposed them on the basis that they both did not do enough and also what id did do would make things worse for towns. Look at the MMA’s website ( and you should find the action item that the membership voted on this past Saturday morning to ask the legislature to enact OPEB reforms.


2 responses to “School budget & OPEB

  1. Pete-

    I think I may have offended you with my message, and for that I apologize. I acknowledge and appreciate the time you invest in civic duties. Communication with the public is one of your strong suits. With respect to school budgets and expenditures, you’ve been very clear that the BOS has no direct role in the process. Nonetheless, there are so many issues that come before the BOS and other boards that are cast in terms of impact on schools, that there should be a clear understanding of what the true variable costs are of adding new students. You once mentioned that someone had come up with a financial model for one of the other town departments. Maybe something similar could be developed for the school budget. Is that something that might be encompassed by the software tool being used by the Town of Arlington?

    I’m pleased to hear that there is, in fact, active discussion on the OPEB liability issue.

    Regards, Charlie

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Selectman Osler "Pete" Peterson

    i do wish that i knew more about the details and variables of the school budget, and i think it would help me as a selectman. For me it has just been a question of not finding the time to make that happen because of all the other things i am doing.

    Arlington seems to have developed lots of great procedures for doing its budgets, both operating and capital, which i have now seen demonstrated at several seminars. I think we could learn a lot from what they do, and i have passed their materials along to our Warrant Committee. i do not know that Arlington uses a tool as was developed in Medfield – their materials seemed more geared towards the process.

    Our financial planning tool for the Water & Sewer Board was developed by a business consultant who was a member of the Water & Sewer Board, but to my knowledge, no town employee is using it. The creator had offered to build it for another town department, but he recently resigned from the Water & Sewer Board, and that offer may have lapsed. In my mind it is the sort of financial planning and modeling tool from which we should be running the whole town budget, but at the moment i am not sure that we are even using it to make the Water & Sewer decisions. I am told that it is more sophisticated than what is being used by other towns, so I had actually thought that the town could sell it, to make some money, as its creator had no interest in selling it himself.


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