Blog: Transparency

Understanding debt limits Municipalities issue debt to fund long-term capital projects such as schools and other buildings. In well-run communities, bond terms align with the lives of the capital assets being funded, a practice that provides resources for future projects. Paying debt service on assets long out of use can have dire financial consequences. So...
It’s safe to say that Boston is the economic hub of Massachusetts and will be for the foreseeable future. However, a number of cities have the potential to boost the Commonwealth’s economy in the long-run. These communities, known as "gateway cities", were once home to booming industries that have since left; but what these industries...
For those who have kept up with Pioneer’s work on pensions, it’s clear that Massachusetts’s public retirement systems are troubled. However, readers still may wonder how these systems compare to those in other states.  Unfortunately, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the Commonwealth’s state-run pensions are underperforming relative to other states. This...
In recent weeks, many MBTA riders have expressed frustration about the T’s recent fare hike. In fact, some riders are volunteering to stand on platforms and lead a conversation about what riders can do to roll back the hike. However, the T is unlikely to budge. Even when ridership declines for a period, fare revenue...
According to MassOpenBooks, the average annual pay for UMass Medical School Employees is $57,746. But as highlighted in the chart below, Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins makes $1,069,752.  According to USA Today, the income that qualifies a Massachusetts resident to be included in the top 1% is $582,774.  When looking at MassOpenBooks 2018 Highest Paid...
According to MassOpenBooks 2018 statistics, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department is the 18th highest department by average pay of all employees from 126 departments listed (excluding authorities) in the state. It has 1,135 employees who earn a total of $85,059,220.  While the total number of employees decreased from 1,138 in 2012 to 1,135 in 2018,...
In 2018, quasi-public Massachusetts agencies made a total of 115,202 payments worth $7.1 billion to private vendors. Quasi-public agencies are entities that receive state funding but remain partially autonomous from the executive and legislative branches. Since these agencies are somewhat independent, a look at which private vendors are paid the most, can provide important insights...
As Pioneer has previously discussed, Massachusetts continues to kick the can down the road with regard to its public pension liabilities. Legislators and municipalities have not only delayed the funding schedules of these pension systems, but have also back-loaded them, leaving the bulk of debt amortization for the future, while only paying small amounts now....
It’s no secret that Massachusetts’s public pension systems are following a dangerous path. At both the state and local levels, officials have allowed unfunded pension liabilities to grow at unsustainable rates. According to a recent Pioneer study, unfunded liabilities of the state’s three retirement systems grew by 196% between 2003 and 2017.  Most of the...
Despite the overall dismal performance of Massachusetts’s public pensions, there are systems that have done a noteworthy job of reducing their unfunded liability. For taxpayers who contribute to these systems and public employees who benefit from them, this is great news. It means they are less likely to see tax hikes and/or reduced benefits. It’s...