Acton has two major long-term budget challenges it will have to address this year. Its previous attempts to address them have fallen well short of what we should be seeing if property tax rates are of concern.
Last year, Acton's OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) liability took center stage at Town Meeting when most people learned for the first time that we had about $87 million in estimated unfunded liabilities. (These are funds for future healthcare costs for retired town and school employees.) A town-hired consultant suggested we start putting aside about $3 million-$4 million per year, but our leaders recommended we set aside only $500,000, which is what Town Meeting approved. This has made the future annual costs grow even larger.
The problem in a nutshell is not that we didn't save more. We have about $8 million in our reserve funds, so transferring money from Pocket A to Pocket B really makes no difference in the long run.
The problem is that we continue to spend as if this liability does not exist. We raised property taxes to the maximum allowed under Proposition 2 1/2, we took savings from concessions by our employees in healthcare costs, and we spent all the money....