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Thread: Did Tony Boschetto & Donna Bouchard advocate for "level funding" the school budget?

  1. #1
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    Post Did Tony Boschetto & Donna Bouchard advocate for "level funding" the school budget?

    There has been so much controversy over Tony Boschetto's candidate positions he took the unusual step of writing a column in which he sought to set the record straight ("Letting The Record Speak for Itself"). But this piece seems to have raised more questions than it answered.

    Controversial positions:

    1. Did Tony Boschetto and Donna Bouchard support level-funding of the schools, or the Superintendent's Budget? (Note that level funding is matching last year's dollars not last year's services, and amounts to a $1.2 million budget cut (about $1 million less than the Superintendent's Recommended Budget, which is what appears in the warrant)
    2. Has Tony Boschetto taken a position on WaylandCares funding?


    (1) Level Funding

    The controversy revolves around statements that candidates Tony Boschetto and Donna Bouchard had sought to cut the school budget. Boschetto states unequivocally in his column:
    "I did NOT recommend or approve of any cuts in the school budget. I did NOT support a level funded budget."
    And yet, public records seem to tell a different story. His email to FinCom in which he advocated for "level funding" is available at the end of this post. In that email he responded to a invitation from FinCom member Tom Greenaway to review the budget before it was finalized in late January. In his response, written jointly with Kent George and Donna Bouchard, he wrote:

    At this point, there are some areas where we believe immediate adjustments are warranted: [....] As requested to the school comm...level funding for school budget. Finding efficiencies in a $33 million dollar appropriation is imperative for maintaining sustainability.
    "Level Funding" (as described by Tom Greenaway when he summarized this letter with Tony absent but co-authors Donna Bouchard and Kent George in the audience at the January 28 FinCom meeting (starting at 14:26) is "dollar-for-dollar level funding with last year's budget", and not a matching of current services, and would have required a $1.2 million reduction from last year's budget, or just under $1 million less than the Superintendent's Recommended Budget.

    (2) WaylandCares

    Additionally, regarding WaylandCares in the WaylandeNews Q&A, Boschetto wrote:
    "I have not taken a position on the issue. I do not have sufficient information to evaluate the proposal and I believe there are still unanswered questions from residents that need to be addressed before I can make an informed decision. I look forward to seeing further information and responses to these open questions such that I can properly evaluate the budget request."
    But in the same January 28 letter to FinCom, his recommendation regarding WaylandCares was as follows:

    We could not justify or support the funding of the Wayland Cares Program.
    This negative, and not "no position" stance on WaylandCares is consistent with his January 7 email to the Board of Selectmen [emphasis added by me]:
    Dear Board of Selectmen.

    I will be unable to attend tonight’s meeting, but wanted to send the following request for public comment with respect to the funding of the Wayland Cares program.

    It has been brought to my attention that significant information is lacking for the public to properly understand and evaluate the financial impact and prior accounting/benefit of this program.

    Numerous requests for public information have been submitted with no response and the committee has no public information available.

    Futher, questions were raised which seem to implicate this program by the ORC. (outlined below and included herein by reference)

    Until all these questions can be answered and full financial disclosure is provided, I believe the BOS should take no position on this request.

    From my personal experience, I believe this program is ineffective and should not be funded, but regardless of the effectiveness of the program and merits of the funding, serious concerns about the transparency and fiscal reporting of this program warrant further analysis before any recommendation can be made.

    Thanks

    Tony Boschetto

    This message is sent on my personal behalf and not as any representative of boards or committee’s[sic] that I represent.
    For more discussion on this topic, see this thread




    January 28 email from Tony Boschetto to FinCom for public comment:

    On Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 12:52 PM, <XXXXXXXX@verizon.net> wrote:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for sending the email and asking for feedback before tonight.

    I hope you were able to spend some quality time with the family this weekend.

    I will be unable to attend this evening as I have an audit committee meeting at the same time.

    I greatly appreciate your effort in preparing the analysis.

    I discussed some of the items with Donna and Kent and we took a quick look at your analysis and without substantive detail it is hard to evaluate and or opine on the budget as a whole.

    We believe there are many areas that need further scrutiny and once the final detailed budget is available, we will be working with others to analyze these recommendations against actual results and there could be possible recommended additional items for savings before town meeting and possible adjustments recommended at town meeting.

    In addition to comments below, we would strongly encourage the Fincom support of the recommendations of Annette Lewis with respect to the detailed reporting to be presented in the warrant and voted at town meeting.

    Even without the further detail, at this point, there are some areas where we believe immediate adjustments are warranted.

    1. We could not justify or support the funding of the Wayland Cares Program.
    2. We would recommend you defer any investment and funding of additional vehicles for capital spending until a more substantive fleet management and analysis program is implemented. Where are the vehicles, who are they assigned to, what is the annual mileage, what percentage of mileage is person vs. business, is there a policy for personal use and how is it maintained. This information is critical to evaluate our overall fleet costs and savings. One off requests for vehicles every year without this data is challenging to understand and support. This should be deferred until analysis is completed.
    3. As requested to the school comm…level funding for school budget. Finding efficiencies in a $33 million dollar appropriation is imperative for maintaining sustainability.
    4. We do not believe there is a need for debt exclusion as there is sufficient room in the tax levy capacity to fund all new debt. The impact on the levy capacity for debt is only the annual debt service costs, not the entire debt issue. This can be managed appropriately within the current levy capacity.
    5. We do not see appropriate justification for further funding of OPEB until all questions are answered and a clear policy is documented to manage the investment of the funds and future costs based on the new legislation filed by Governor Patrick.
    6. Health Expense- we would look more closely at the proposed increases as some of the assumptions on health costs and enrollment do not appear consistent with actual data and information from the State. We are still waiting for the further analysis and breakout of the employee contributions and how they are managed. We would recommend level funding of this expense at actual expense levels from prior year.
    7. We could not see justification for increase staffing in the police and fire budget and recommend those positions be deferred.
    8. Any recommended funding of “reserve for salary adjustments” should be eliminated, if and when final contracts are negotiated, those adjustments can be made by either transfers from other funds, or appropriated at STM.
    Thanks for your time and effort and hard work. I believe there is significant room for improvement in this budget process that should make the work of the finance committee easier and the information more transparent. I hope that we can make some changes in the future, so the analysis is not this difficult.

    Thanks

    Tony
    -----------------------
    This comment is made on my own behalf individually, and does not represent WaylandeNews or any other group with which I am affiliated.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 03-28-2013 at 12:13 PM. Reason: to obscure a posted email address for privacy

  2. #2
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    Default Even after Ask the Candidates, still hard not to see it as request for level funding

    The level funding question was asked during Peter Gossels' Ask the Candidates Live show on Thursday night.

    That video is available online here

    The question starts at 1:14:45, and Tony's response starts at 16:05

    Tony said,
    Let me clarify: I did not propose or support level funding. The Finance Committee asked the School Committee and the School Committee Finance Department to prepare a budget with a 10% reduction in services. They ultimately didn't approve that budget and they approved a budget that was more responsible. My position is no more at odds than what their position was. They asked for an analysis so that they could compare it against another budget, it's the same thing I did. I spoke publicly on October at the School Committee meeting, that public comment is available on my website that everyone can see live and hear first-hand where I explicitly said no one was asking for cuts in services. What I asked for was a zero-based budget because historically the reason we've had large surpluses is because our budgets were not accurate. Our actual spending was well below our budgeted spending and we want to make sure that when we budget for these initiatives, we are budgeting based upon actuals. What I requested of the Finance Committee was that that since we didn't do zero-based budgeted that they create a budget based on level-funding so that all of our residents could understand what the increases are from a level funded budget to the ultimately proposed budget. I did not support or recommend level funding, and I am on record publicly as saying I do not support cuts in services.
    What Tony wrote on January 28 was the following:
    "I discussed some of the items with Donna and Kent and we took a quick look at your analysis and without substantive detail it is hard to evaluate and or opine on the budget as a whole.

    We believe there are many areas that need further scrutiny and once the final detailed budget is available, we will be working with others to analyze these recommendations against actual results and there could be possible recommended additional items for savings before town meeting and possible adjustments recommended at town meeting....

    Even without the further detail, at this point, there are some areas where we believe immediate adjustments are warranted. ...

    3. As requested to the school comm…level funding for school budget."
    What Tony addressed during the Q&A (the October School Committee meeting) was a 10% cut to the School Budget, which is significantly less than "level funding". He was against that, and I have not heard anyone suggest that Tony supported a 10% budget cut. What you are hearing many of us say is that he did send a letter to FinCom while they were finalizing the budget: "As requested to the school comm... level funding for school budget."

    When presented at FinCom with Kent George and Donna Bouchard in the audience, this is precisely what Tom Greenaway relayed to the Finance Committee: "dollar-for-dollar level funding with last year's budget", and that means a $1.2 million cut over last year's services.

    I do not believe Tony has adequately addressed this discrepancy. I don't see any way to read this as a request for more analysis, it was an area in which Tony, Donna and Kent believed "even without the further detail... immediate adjustments" (not analysis, not study), "immediate adjustments are warranted".
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 03-30-2013 at 04:46 PM. Reason: to fix a typo

  3. #3
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    Default

    Wayland Voters Network Newsletter #493 distributed this morning included this text:
    Quote Originally Posted by Wayland Voters Network
    Establishment supporters of selectman candidate David Gordon Cliff are accusing his opponent, Tony Boschetto, of fudging positions on budget cuts.

    The matter inevitably came up during the Ask the Candidates live WayCAM broadcast on March 28. Ben Downs phoned in, asking about Boschetto statements that Downs described as conflicting. Downs has endorsed Cliff and is the husband of School Committee candidate Jeanne Downs.

    Boschetto denied that he ever recommended or supported a level funded school budget, that is, a budget that would require reducing services. He said that that he, like Cliff, supported the budget recommended by the school superintendent and invited voters to his website to view the documents cited by Cliff supporters.

    Former school Committee member Jeff Dieffenbach (no longer a Wayland resident) and Kim Reichelt of WaylandeNews, both Cliff endorsers, have publicized the allegation.

    Boschetto said he and town officials publicly analyzed a range of possible budgets, one of which would show what would happen with a 10% reduction. Nobody recommended that possibility, he said.
    It's interesting to note that WVN themselves reported on the "level funding email" (without attributing it to Tony Boschetto, Donna Bouchard and Kent George or providing complete detail) back in February.

    WVN from February 4 included this summary of the FinCom meeting from contributor Betty Salzberg (bold emphasis is mine)

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayland Voters Network
    FINCOM OK'S POLICE POSITION, WAYLAND CARES FUNDING

    During a long meeting on Jan. 28 the Finance Committee made some decisions and came closer to completing its recommended budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1. Members approved a request for an additional police officer but said no -- for now -- to another fire fighter.

    Public comment included several citizens asking the FinCom to keep the budget level unchanged for next year. Emails FinCom members had received also sounded this note. There were opinions both in favor of and skeptical about the Wayland Cares anti-drug program.
    If you watch the Public Comment video of that meeting (available online here, starting right at the beginning of the video) For comparison against WVN's report, here is a summary of the comments presented during public comment:

    (1) David Hill: thanks for the work on the budget, budget not sustainable. Asks for in-depth review of school budgets and non-exempt debt for capital expenses, reserve fund consideration during free-cash reserve calculations, eliminate or keep to a minimum OPEB contributions, don't fund WaylandCares, remove $65,000 over-estimate, don't fund COLAs
    (2) Kent George: questions about process - would like to see 10% cut list items. Opportunity to cut the budget this year, keep squeezing the sponge to get out more water
    (3) Anette Lewis: don't vote yet on the budget, need to go through line items to ensure you know what's in the budget. Questions remain on OPEB regarding irrevocable trust
    (4) Heidi Heilman: spoke in favor of WaylandCares
    (5) Comments introduced via email:
    (a) email from Tony Boschetto (starting at 14:24 on the video) - the email itself is posted here. Tony said he would need to work to get more detailed recommendations, but then he had immediate adjustments - WaylandCares, no new vehicles, level funding for schools, no debt exclusion needed, no further funding of OPEB, look more closely at health expenses, no new staffing in police or fire, no reserve for salary adjustments
    (b) email from Margo Melnicove: don't include WaylandCares in budget


    SO, whose email comments was WVN referring to when they said:
    Public comment included several citizens asking the FinCom to keep the budget level unchanged for next year. Emails FinCom members had received also sounded this note.
    (my emphasis)

    WVN can note that I made "allegations", but it would be more complete for them to admit that they themselves had reported on the same exact item. The difference: they did not attribute those comments to Tony Boschetto, Donna Bouchard or Kent George. I have relayed what was entered into the public record, which happens to match what their own commentator heard and reported.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 04-01-2013 at 11:15 AM. Reason: fix a few typos

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