Friday, December 20, 2013

Financial News

Two things worth noting:

1) Beth Healy of the Boston Globe digs down and figures out how it came to pass that (as reported on this blog) the MBTA pension fund invested with Buddy Fletcher. Turns out one of the MBTA pension fund managers went to work for Buddy and then sold his former colleagues on this cool thing Buddy had going. All fine and dandy within applicable regulations.

2) Harvard Magazine does a much better job following the money trail in Harvard's recent financial statements than Harvard itself did in its own reporting. Imagine that! As the Magazine says,
Harvard’s spending in fiscal 2013 was driven by costs other than salaries, wages, and employee benefits—in contrast to the prior year …. Compensation costs, which continue to account for about half of operating expense, rose 4 percent, with salaries and wages up 4 percent. Employee benefits rose 6 percent—in line with the growth in fiscal 2012 after accounting for a one-time adjustment.
But non-compensation expense increased 7 percent, including costs for a number of “strategic initiatives” listed in the report: the edX online collaborationdevelopment of Allston properties, and the capital campaign itself. …Beyond its operating budget, Harvard is spending a lot on capital projects, includingthe art museumsthe Business School’s Tata Hall, and the undergraduate House renovation (a total of $404 million in fiscal 2013, up 19 percent), with much more in prospect as the campaign underwrites further business school building, the Allston science complex and other projects recently approved in the institutional master plan, and so on.
Of course the Campaign is hugely important. But there is going to have to be another way to make ends meet in the long run. As the Magazine concludes,
… at some point, in some way, collecting revenue from the edX online courses will likely figure in the mix. 


  1. Worth keeping in mind - as is never mentioned in analyses of projected expenditures - is that every new building will have associated very substantial staffing, utilities, maintenance, etc., costs. Buildings which have been closed for some time, such as the Fogg and Tozzer Library, have not had operational costs as part of Harvard's budget. Even with the .05 percent of endowment now converted from "administrative assessment" for Allston into operating revenue, the university is overall just breaking even. Where will the money for these requirements come from?

    If endowment funds can cover such categories of expenditure, why could there not be solicitation for the needs of retirees whose expenses will otherwise be going up, for new employees who now will have to work longer and be older before being fully vested for benefits, for custodians who had their hours cut at the time of the financial crisis and never got those restored, or for other worthy personnel costs which Harvard gives indication are no longer feasible to cover as generously in the past (as with HUCTW health benefits)? All these categories of staffers contributed significantly to alums' experience at Harvard, and I'm sure there would be monetary expressions of goodwill were the necessities brought to the attention of the alumnus community.

  2. (My speculation, IANAFR (I am not a fund raiser).) People prefer giving to buildings or other sexy projects. Churchs have a ``problem''' with people wanting to give TO MISSIONS. Nobody really wants to give to operating costs.

    However, its an interesting idea- give to help staff who was laid off, and making that into a giving-campaign. Rather than speculate that it won't work, I'd like to see someone try.

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