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  1. #1
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    Default Terrific Crier article on school finances by School Committee member

    "Considering everything except encumbered amounts, our schools had excess funds of $742,681, $1,169,824 and $1,229,723 for FY09, FY10 and FY11, respectively. One practice of “memo” carry forwards was used by the prior school business administrator to list end-of-year account balances that she wanted to carry forward into the next fiscal year on a memo, thereby carrying the money into the next year rather than return the unexpended amounts to the town. This practice has been discontinued by our new business administrator."


    Read more: Guest columnist: Looking further into school finances - Wayland, MA - Wicked Local Wayland http://www.wickedlocal.com/wayland/n...#ixzz1cRmF6qH4
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  2. #2
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    Default Not so terrific

    Mr. Kinney's letter was well-written, but unfortunately, not terrific.

    His suggestion, for instance, that the School Committee might have used one-time special education pre-payment funds to avoid the recurring costs saved by the enrollment-driven elementary school reconfiguration, is not well thought out.

    I have more to say on this in a Town Crier letter to the editor that I submitted for this week's edition of the paper. Once that letter is published there, I'll post it here.

  3. #3
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    Here's the text of my letter in today's Town Crier:

    WAYLAND — TO THE EDITOR:

    I respectfully disagree with a key conclusion of resident Shawn Kinney’s recent Town Crier column (“For want of a nail a war was lost,” Oct. 27).

    Mr. Kinney mistakenly suggested that a lack of financial information factored into the School Committee’s decision to reconfigure the elementary schools in advance of the 2008-09 school year. Not only did the committee have the allegedly missing information, it considered that information correctly.

    While I do not have the “formal financial training” that Mr. Kinney appears to value (or perhaps overvalue, in the wake of Enron, Madoff and Lehman), I did serve for five years on the Finance Committee prior to my 10 years with the School Committee. In short, I have experience with municipal finance and its application to school budgeting.

    Mr. Kinney presented a series of amounts that he incorrectly represented as a string of surpluses that might have been used in part to avoid the reconfiguration. As a reminder, that reconfiguration, prompted by a desire to reduce an operating override in the face of pressing economic times that continue to challenge us today, was enabled only by declining enrollment.

    Mr. Kinney argued that three categories of funds – (1) special education pre-payments, (2) so-called “memo carry-forwards,” and (3) year-end surpluses – might have been otherwise spent. In the case of the first two, which made up more than two-thirds of the total, such a use was not possible. Special education payments may only be carried forward to the next fiscal year to fund special education needs. In the same vein, memo carry-forwards are designated for specific uses committed to but not payable in the current year.

    One-time surpluses resulting from such events as unanticipated utility savings or unfilled positions might be used for other purposes. However, these funds – of which the committee was always aware – were (a) unavailable until well after the reconfiguration decision and (b) inappropriate to apply to cover recurring expenses. As such, these funds were duly returned to the town. – Jeff Dieffenbach, Pleasant Street

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    Default

    It is not surprising that former School Committee member Jeff Dieffenbach would get defensive over some of the criticisms of Dr. Kinney, since he was on the committee at the time in question.

    However, the Abrahams Report backs up Dr. Kinney's assertions. The financial record keeping was a disaster and many people knew it. Yet, when anyone from the public would raise a question about the budget, they were quickly silenced and the public was told that everything was under control. This went on for years.

    Nonetheless, I share Dr. Kinney's optimism because as things continue to come out about how badly things were (mis)managed in the past, we can learn from those mistakes and fix things and move on. One of the worst things about the past administration was the propensity to sweep problems under the rug and deny their existence.

    With many of the old guard now gone, and with some new blood on the school committee who are willing to ask difficult questions and challenge the status quo, and actually take the time to examine the budget, there is good reason for optimism going forward.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Default

    John, you can spin my correction of the facts as "defensive" if you like, but your post is curiously free of any substance.

    The Abrahams Report most certainly does NOT back up the faults I found with Dr. Kinney's letter.

    1. Dr. Kinney asserts that had the School Committee been aware of what he calls surpluses at the time of the elementary school reconfiguration decision, it might have acted otherwise. Yet the numbers he cites in his original letter in fact show no such surplus for FY08, nor did the Committee expect one.

    John, please show us where the Abrahams Report contradicts what I've written above.

    2. Dr. Kinney suggests that the School Committee should have re-purposed funds designated for special education and to cover known expenses (the "memo carry-forwards") to avoid the reconfiguration. Such a use would have been impermissible and/or would have left funds for those purposes short.

    John, please show us where the Abrahams Report advocates for such a re-purposing of funds.

    3. Dr. Kinney implies that several years after the reconfiguration, the Committee should have used one-time surpluses (for instance, resulting from a renegotiated utility contract) to fund ongoing expenses such as teacher salaries.

    John, please show us where the Abrahams Report endorses such an irresponsible budgeting practice.

    To be sure, the Abrahams Report suggested a number of areas where the schools might improve their accounting processes. I've consistently endorsed implementing those improvements.

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    Default

    BTW, the Abrahams Report can be found here:
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/index.php
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    While I do not have the “formal financial training” that Mr. Kinney appears to value (or perhaps overvalue, in the wake of Enron, Madoff and Lehman), I did serve for five years on the Finance Committee prior to my 10 years with the School Committee.
    Formal financial training is less valuable in the wake of Enron, Madoff, and Lehman? Please explain.

  8. #8
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    I was simply making the wry observation that "formal financial training" is no guarantee of a positive outcome. I don't recall if the Town Crier removed my "trademark" [grin] or if I didn't include it.

    [grin]

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I was simply making the wry observation that "formal financial training" is no guarantee of a positive outcome. I don't recall if the Town Crier removed my "trademark" [grin] or if I didn't include it.
    Did the cold fusion farce reduce the value of a formal education in physics? Is the study of biochemistry now less valuable in the wake of the Korean cloning scandal? Whether you were grinning or not, your implication that the value of formal financial training is diminished because some people who received formal financial training subsequently committed fraud is ludicrous.

    Note that in the preceding sentence, the adjective ludicrous applies to your claim, not to you personally.

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