If 2 Companies are closed per shift – Closing should be listed on Web Site.

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This year so far (only a few examples)

Two Alarm fire in the 100 block of Foster St in the Highlands Fire reportedly began in the basement and extended to the first and second floors of the dwelling.

a three-alarm fire on Stevens Street that displaced as many as 35 people.

Four-alarm fire, 71 Varney St., Lowell.

Remember 2009? - Residents flee as fire rips through Lowell house – This Fire was on Highland St. – the nearest Engine Company on Gorham Street, normally the first to arrive at this building, was closed

Remember 2010 – Union rings alarm about city closing fire stations Jennifer Myers, jmyers@lowellsun.com
LOWELL — Lowell Fire Department Lt. David Keene last night called for the end of the budget-saving practice of closing city fire stations on a rotating basis in light of the deadly fire that destroyed a Bridge Street apartment building early Sunday morning. Lowell firefighters rescued nine people from the inferno that claimed the lives of two residents and injured two firefighters, a feat Keene, the president of the firefighters union, said is even more impressive given that there were nine fewer firefighters on duty than there would have been had three companies not been closed at the time of the fire.

Remember 2014 – Branch St -As it stands now this will be the second deadliest fire in the history of the City of Lowell.

If The City Manager and City Council want to keep money in reserves or the Manager’s contingency fund and instead close 2 Fire Companies per shift, then the City should announce which companies are closed, shift by shift on the Lowell Fire Dept Website.

The Public should be aware of a greater danger to their home if response time will be increasing because a company close by is closed. The City has a web site and public access television, along with free radio time available to keep the public informed and aware of what fire companies in their neighborhoods are being forced to shut down.

If public safety is in fact really a primary concern of this Manager and Council, as they have repeatedly told us, then making this information public benefits the residence to be more attentive to their homes and their neighbor’s home and overall neighborhood.

I also have to ask if a business or home’s fire insurance is at risk of going up come renewal time this spring because the city has determined that even with available funds (Manager’s Contingency and/or Reserves), they choose to close 2 companies per shift.

Where are the neighborhood leaders, the media and the firefighters union? Why is there no outrage? This Manager and Council which has waved the public safety flag over and over is about to close two fire companies over less than $150,000!

How Ironic that the SUN was touting “Sunshine Week” last week about the need for Gov’t to be more transparent and yet here they are working with the City Officials, intentionally leaving the readers of their newspaper in the dark about the fact that a fire station company in their neighborhood may be closed because this Manager and Council refuse to transfer money from the Manager’s Contingency fund or reserves…..A case of Politics over public good?

Dingwell

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Trying to Understand Chapt 70 Funding – Excess Levy Capacity does NOT hurt City

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chapter-70 Explained

At last week’s Lowell City Council Meeting, City Manager Murphy stated that because we have that excess Tax Levy it counts against us and comes into play where funding for Schools (Chapt 70) is concerned and that state money is reduced because of that.

Dick Howe Jr wrote in his City Council Summary

In response to Councilor Milinazzo question, Manager concedes that the city’s “excess levy capacity” (meaning we have the ability to raise taxes more) cuts down the amount of state aid the city will receive. Same with rising home values which mean the ability to raise more money through taxes. Councilor Samaras asks about school funding, particularly expenditures on charter school and how it relates to the rest of the school system. Conor Baldwin, Chief Financial Officer, says that Greater Lowell Tech’s assessment to the city is increasing by $1 million this year. Also says the state will be reducing (or at least not increasing) aid to schools, both making this budget very challenging

While it is a decent summary, it’s NOT exactly correct. Councilor Milinazzo was actually talking about Chapt 70 funding. (LTC Council Meeting 3/17 at the 7:30 mark) but for the record, Excess Tax Levy does NOT count against any City in either formula.

There is NOTHING in either the General Local Aid Formula or the Chapt. 70 (School Aid) formula, that states if you have excess tax levy capacity you are punished or money is withheld from your city because you aren’t at the upper most tax cap.

I’ve attached a Power Point Presentation from the Mass Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, that does a pretty good job explaining the Chapt. 70 formula and what that means they are looking for for funding.

Part of it states:

Chapter 70 aid is determined in three basic steps (Bold Mine)

It defines and calculates a foundation budget, an adequate funding level for each district, given the specific grades, programs, and demographic characteristics of its students.

It then determines an equitable local contribution, how much of that “foundation budget” should be paid for by each city and town’s property tax, based upon the relative wealth of the community.

The remainder is funded by Chapter 70 state aid. Local Contribution + State Aid = a district’s Net School Spending (NSS) requirement. This is the minimum amount that a district must spend to comply with state law.

So while the increase home value and the amount charged in property tax is part of the formula, EXCESS TAX LEVY is NOT! You don’t get penalized for having excess levy.

The Attached Power Point also explains a little more information about the formula including:

Local Contribution Establishing local ability to pay

The foundation budget is a shared municipal-state responsibility.

Each community has a different target local share, or ability to pay, based on its property values and residents’ incomes.

Prior to this policy, required local contributions had become less linked to ability to pay. A process was established in 2007 to move each community from its 2006 baseline to its new target.

Individual communities’ target local shares are based on local property values and income, and foundation budget.

To determine local effort, first apply this year’s property percentage (0.3808%) to the town’s 2014 total equalized property valuation
Then apply this year’s income percentage (1.4930%) to the town’s 2012 total residential income

Local Property Effort
+ Local Income Effort
= Combined Effort Yield (CEY)

Target Local Share = CEY/Foundation budget
Capped at 82.5% of foundation
In FY16, 143 of 351 communities are capped.

GN: What can be confusing is that there is a reference to the tax levy but it doesn’t state that it is punitive to have excess levy.

Preliminary Contribution
Increase last year’s required local contribution by the municipality’s Municipal Revenue Growth Factor (MRGF)
Calculated annually by the Department of Revenue
Quantifies the most recent annual percentage change in each community’s local revenues, such as the annual increase in the Proposition 2½ levy limit, that should be available for schools

Required Contribution
If the preliminary contribution is above the target, reduce by the effort reduction percent (45% in FY16).
If the preliminary contribution is below by less than 2.5%, the preliminary contribution becomes the new requirement.
If the preliminary contribution is below by more than 7.5%, an additional 2% is added to the preliminary contribution. For those below by between 2.5 and 7.5%, 1% is added.

The Preliminary Budget mentioned by CFO Conor Baldwin (that can also be found on the State’s Chapt. 70 website )shows that Lowell will actually be receiving an additional $306,000 in State Aid/ Something Mr. Baldwin states in a memo as part of the Council Packet.

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He is correct when he states the $300,000 increase is the lowest increase in a long time. That is due to the City paying more by meeting the Net School Spending in 2015 and thus setting the base foundation for the City higher, combined with the added value of property in the city and the additional income generated from that (I pointed out Sunday that the average tax bill went up 6.3%) so the State see’s that as the increase in ability to pay more.

Again NOTHING mentioned that states excess Levy is something you get penalized for or that it is held against you as ability to pay.

Here is a summary sheet from the Chap. 70 website but you need to be Joe Smith or a financial guru to understand it.

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Sunday Notes March 22nd 2015

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A Defining Moment for Councilors and the Murphy Administration! aka providing a big election issue

At the foundation of my vision for Lowell are three main pillars: public safety, education, and economic development. You will see these pillars appear as themes, interwoven throughout the budget. The funding recommendations included in the proposed budget will address each issue independently; some use long – term strategies that will bear fruit over the course of several years, while others will be handled with immediate solutions that are initiated this year. Public Safety; perhaps the most pressing matter facing our community, is an example of the latter..

PUBLIC SAFETY FOCUS Key Performance Indicators for Goal 2
Figure 34 – Public Safety KFA, Goal 2 KPIs
Improve the quality of life in the City of Lowell by providing fire protection,emergency response services, prevention,and public education activities. Protect all citizens, their property, and the environment from natural and man-made disasters

Number of Fire Companies Closed Per Shift <1

All of the above comes from City Manager Murphy’s June budget. He made the taxpayers of Lowell and his bosses a pledge that Public Safety would be a major priority of his administration and he made it a goal. If he forces the shut down of two fire companies per shift, with funding available in the Manager’s contingency fund or from the $2.2 million remains of them defunct Chap. 17 funds, what does that say about his commitment to public safety?

Many current Councilors, especially Dan Rourke and Corey Belanger ran on a strong public safety platform. We have listened to them and many of the other Councilor’s talk about the need and their efforts for public safety.

Mayor Elliot was front and center after the Branch St.fire praising the firefighters for their actions and assisting the victims. He has talked on and on about the need to make sure Lowell is a safe city. What message are these Councilor’s and Manager sending cutting fire companies?

Remember in 2010 the flack the Lynch Administration and Council took after people were killed when 3 companies were closed?

Sun, The (Lowell, MA)
October 13, 2010

Union rings alarm about city closing fire stations Jennifer Myers, jmyers@lowellsun.com
LOWELL — Lowell Fire Department Lt. David Keene last night called for the end of the budget-saving practice of closing city fire stations on a rotating basis in light of the deadly fire that destroyed a Bridge Street apartment building early Sunday morning. Lowell firefighters rescued nine people from the inferno that claimed the lives of two residents and injured two firefighters, a feat Keene, the president of the firefighters union, said is even more impressive given that there were nine fewer firefighters on duty than there would have been had three companies not been closed at the time of the fire.

"To the layman, this means 60 percent of the closest companies were closed due to budget cuts," Keene read, at last night's City Council meeting, from a letter he wrote to City Manager Bernie Lynch. "We worked that fire with a reduction of personnel of 24 percent, one-fourth less manpower to take on the numerous tasks encountered simultaneously at this fire."

Remember the coverage of Branch St. last summer…

4 Adults, 3 Children Killed In Lowell Apartment Building Fire
LOWELL (CBS) – Seven people were killed in a fire that tore through a three-story apartment building in Lowell on Thursday.
A passing police officer spotted the fire around 4 a.m. and reported it. The building at 73-81 Branch Street was already engulfed by heavy flames when firefighters arrived.
The three-story building houses several apartments, as well as a liquor store on the first floor.
Lowell’s Fire Chief Edward Pitta says the victims were all found in two separate units on third floor. The victims included four adults and three children.

Lowell City Council Meeting: July 22, 2014
July 22, 2014 by DickH Posted in City Council 4 Comments
Meeting opens with Councilor Mercier requesting a moment of silence for the seven victims of the Branch Street fire. Mayor Elliott joins in with heartfelt remarks on effect of the tragedy and on the way the entire city pulled together in response to it. He presents commendations to the Lowell Police Department and the Lowell Fire Department and thanks all the agencies, organizations and individuals who did so much to assist the victims making special recognition of the Red Cross, City Manager Murphy, and a number of city departments. Councilor Mercier then thanks Mayor Elliott for recognizing everyone else but then commends Mayor Elliott for his leadership throughout this ordeal.

Lowell Councilors and the Manager get upset when the Boston Media comes to Lowell to highlight the shootings, they feel it portrays Lowell has an unsafe city. What will the Globe, WCVB and others around the state say about Lowell closing companies within a year of one of the worst fire in the state? The SUN which used the increase in shootings and the public safety issue against the past Council and supported Councilors who ran on strong public safety issues has been silent. Either they don’t read the City Council packet on Friday’s or they will say that this practice of closing fire companies has been around for many years,

That is true but in my memory, no Council has used Public Safety more has a Political Issue than this one with the support and stories in the SUN. Why haven’t they reacted to these Councilors and THIS MANAGER seemingly backing away from their support of public safety? If this was 2013 it would have been the Headline Saturday Morning!

This is a watershed moment for these City Councilors and this Manager. According to the Auditor’s report in the February 8th Council Packet there is $148,327 in the Manager’s Contingency Acct. according to the Data Analysis $177, 194 would be needed to keep from closing 2 stations a shift. That means only $30,000 ($28K and change to be exact) would be required from either the defunct Chap. 17 funds (the reserves) or another place in the budget.

We have heard over and over about a freeze on large purchases and hiring, is that to balance the budget or offset the over runs in the snow and ice account? Either way Lowell has the money to keep fire companies open and these Councilors who have proclaimed Public Safety has being their top priority, will be judged by their actions if they allow these fire companies to close.

Do as we say, NOT as we do!

“I am cautiously optimistic the transit authority will do the right thing,” City Manager Kevin Murphy

City: No development without LRTA deal was the headline in the Sun on Thursday and the story was about the Hamilton Canal District and another excuse by the current administration has to why development has been lacking there. This time the City Administration is not only pointing their finger at the Federal Gov’t for the delay do to the “land swap” but now it is pointing at the LRTA.

Part of the land swap deals calls for Lowell to make room for “tour buses” that come to the National Park.

The story states that

Lowell would have to spend more money to construct a parking garage that would accommodate the tour buses. Also, revenue would be lost, because the government would be getting up to 100 spaces for free

So instead Lowell wants to use parking spaces at the LRTA Hale St. site that the LRTA uses for buses not in service and employee parking. According to the article :

the LRTA Managing Director Scanlan said the city wants enough space for 11 buses on a daily basis. Scanlan said the proposal would take up about 60 percent of the available space at the Hale Street property and not leave much room for employee parking and the storage of LRTA buses not in active service.

The real sticking point is Lowell wants to do this and so far has never mentioned paying a fee of any kind.

HELLO! Doesn’t Lowell “rent” parking spots to UMASS Lowell, why would they expect the LRTA which is NOT 100% funded by the City to just give up employee parking and parking for their fleet to Lowell without any compensation?

I would hope the SUN is missing information or that the CITY Administration isn’t being as arrogant has the article made them seem. If you read the story it looks like the Manager is putting in former State Senator Phil Shea has his representative on the board to try to force or influence the board. The Sun wrote ”

Murphy declined to comment, but observers said Murphy’s selection of Shea is a message to the LRTA that it better be the partner city leaders want it be. Murphy was Shea’s chief-of-staff in the late 1970s and early l98Os. Shea will attend his first Advisory Board meeting on March 26

Is the implication that Shea is such a political force that his friends on the board Kevin O’Connor of Tyngsboro, Thomas Bomil of Dracut and David Tully from Dunstable, who all have a responsibilities for the good of the entire LRTA and the communities they represent, would instead do what is right for LOWELL instead of the entire LRTA Communities? I doubt Phil Shea still has that clout or that any one of these gentlemen would do that.

Instead I would hope they would agree with LRTA Director Scanian who is quoted in the story as saying “I am not going to make a commitment that is not in the best interests of the transit authority.” and in my view, neither should any of its board members.

Wicked leaky?

I heard a rumor that said, if Councilor Corey Belanger runs again his new theme song will be Phil Collins – The roof is leaking

ABCC in Lowell?

Details are sketchy, but there is a buzz about the State Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission being in town this past week and visiting an establishment that has been in trouble before and possibly finding booze being sold that wasn’t purchased from an authorized MA. distributor. The Manager of record may be fuzzy and ownership doesn’t appear to be really clear either. The official results aren’t yet known but keep an eye on the SUN and the License Commission…this could be UGLY!

HEY Look at Us and feel bad!

The Lowell Teacher’s union was again picketing at the school committee meeting trying to get public sympathy and it appears to me they are also trying to load up the Election with Pro-Teacher candidates (Andy Descoteaux. a retiring teacher, Chris Roux whose wife is a teacher ( so he could NOT vote on teacher contracts) and Bob Hoey )/

I would ask the taxpayers and parents to remember that their taxes just went up, Health care cost have increased and electrical rates have also soared and that Lowell teachers according to the State are pretty well compensated.

I pointed that out in a post earlier this year,Student Population and Teacher Salary Average Information

In the 2012 – 2013 School Year according to State Records, The City of Lowell ranked 53rd out of 358 School Districts in the State when it comes to the average Salary for Teachers
Teachers Ave Salary

Lowell Ranks as the 6th Largest School District, Boston the Largest but here’s how the “average” Lowell Teacher’s salary compares to the other Large School Districts.

Worcester – $91,504
Brockton – $82,841
Cambridge -$80,725
Boston – $79,263
Lowell -$78,298
Lynn – $69,379
Fall River -$66,138
Springfield -$58,693

Here’s how Lowell Teacher’s salaries compares locally to surrounding community’s –
Nashoba – $81,052
Andover – $80,529
Greater Lowell Tech – $71,620
Westford -$70,361
Chelmsford -$69,345
Billerica -$67,940
Tyngsboro -$67,974
Dracut -$66,937
Lawrence -$66,627

To remind everyone what they just experienced in the last year regarding property tax increases, here is some Tax / cost Information for Lowell:

Average Single Family Tax Bill – 2015 $3,480 (+ $207.00)
Average Single Fam Tax Bill – 2014 $3,273

1-year change in residential rate (from 2014) 2.2%
Avg. residential tax bill change since 2014 6.3%

Single Family Average Value -2015 $224,817 (Increased value $8,638)
Avg Single Family Value – 2014 $216,179

I hope the Union would recognize that Lowell doesn’t have the money a North Andover or Wellesley has and realize we can see that while Lowell has approx. 14,075 students, Boston has 54,312 students the average salary for a Lowell and Boston Teacher is pretty close.

Boston – $79,263
Lowell -$78,298

these numbers are according to the State records (which the Union President will argue isn’t correct..because as we all know figures lie and …well you know the rest)

I know and am friendly with many teachers (at least before this post), I worked in the schools and am an involved parent. Teachers have a tough job there is no argument about that. They deserve a modest, fair raise but they also have to realize that many of the working families here in Lowell are struggling (much more than teachers struggle).

The “average family” here in Lowell is trying to pay for their mortgage (or rent), food, increases in Health Care, rising Electric rates and the cost of raising children with their taxes and fees increasing and their pay rate holding. Unlike teacher’s most of us in the private sector don’t get step raises or salary increases every three years or so. We can’t cash in unused sick days when we retire and we certainly don’t get more than 5 a year, we use or lose them. I work in the private sector in an industry where barely anyone is getting a raise except those who receive the minimum wage. Not a vast majority in Lowell come near the median income of a teacher who has been in the system for 5+ years.

I do not and have not supported this committee or administration, I’ve called out the current committee for their lack of good faith bargaining and stalling negotiations so I don’t want to hear about being Anti-Union or not understanding.

I’m saying that the Teacher’s Union needs to stop playing the “oh poor us” card and holding signs that say Do your job , because the rest of us aren’t buying it and are just getting ticked off. continue to Do your job and while you are at it, make the Union leaders be more reasonable and less confrontational. NO other UNION in Lowell is as confrontational, demanding and uses bully tactics the way the UTL do. The taxpayers know or should know that.

I also would hope we find some impartial candidates in addition to some of these current people returning. Hopefully candidates and those committee people who do return are interested in letting a qualified Superintendent and their administration run the school system without the constant butting in of school committee members who think they should be Superintendent or think they are Horace Mann!

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City will Begin to CLOSE 2 Fire Companies per shift to meet 2015 Budget

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In this week’s City Council Packet there is a memo from Data Analysis Rodney Conley that says the Fire Dept budget including the $300,000 in Overtime that the Council transferred in will be out of funds in May if the city doesn’t either transfer in more money of immediately start closing 2 stations per shift.

You have to wonder why this wasn’t apparent in June when the budget was first set and why wasn’t this data analysis done in February when the City Council approved transferring the entire $300,000 into the overtime account to only have to close 1 company a shift?

Many of these Councilors ran on a public safety platform. Imagine if a Branch Street Company was closed at the time of that fire? The report says that $177, 194 would be required to keep from closing 2 companies a shift.

According to the City Budget the City Manager had $295,000 in his MANAGER’S CONTINGENCY Fun and we know the Manager transferred $2.2 Million dollars from the now defunct Chapt. 17 funding into General reserves.

Why not use money out of those accounts to fund the Fire Dept. and not put neighborhoods in jeopardy by closing 2 companies?

The Chief certainly isn’t happy with that and his response to the Manager is also below.

Here is the Memo from the Data Analysis:

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And here is the Memo from Fire Chief Pita

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City of Lowell St. Patrick’s Day Dinner – Review

Dinner Photo courtesy of the SUN

It’s always fun and interesting for me to go to the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast which this year became a Dinner. You get to see people you haven’t seen for a while like Jim and Jack Dolan, Mike Gallagher, Mike Kunzler, Chet Szablak, Mary Jo Griffen, Dick Howe Jr., Ziggy Burns – who looks great and John’s Nappi and McDonough.

Aside from the fact the UMass Inn and Conference center served RED Corned Beef instead of Grey (and has a result got Brenda Bomil mad at me), the food was very good but the drinks, very overpriced (I’ll stay at Maguire’s in Dracut for my St. Patrick’s Day celebrations).

Our table was tucked into a corner giving us a side view of the head table and not allowing us to see the projection screens(My pal Warren blames that on me, saying Manager Murphy put me in the corner has a form of discipline.) but overall it was a good seat, close to the door (and bar access) and getting to see people has they came in.

Host Sen. Donoghue is a lovely lady but try has she might, she’s not a very good joke teller. She has energy and enthusiasm but her delivery isn’t very good. She should stick to being the MC/host introducing the guest and moving people off and on.

Manager Murphy the Co-host was very funny, using his time to skew former Manager Lynch (he should probably trade mark and sell the Jim Campanni Dart Board) and overall did a fine job. His jokes about his long friendship with the Mayor and being the “Big brother” I found very funny.

He wanted to add more music and “entertainment” but when you have that many tables / people and not a raised stage, the Irish step dancers are an excuse to head to the restroom or bar and should be eliminated. The music should start early, play through the meal and then end when the speaking portion starts. Trying to get the audience to sing along doesn’t work in this type of environment. Leave that to the locals at Wicked Irish and the Worthen on St. Patrick’s Day.

Governor Charlie Baker was funny and engaging and comes across has a guy who enjoys telling a joke/story getting a few laughs and then getting off. Not long, drawn out like others have been and played along with the other speakers when they used him in their jokes. (also showed what a smart politician he is by NOT putting on a large hat the Mayor attempted to place on his head.) His line to Councilor Corey Belanger about “Anything for You” was funny considering the rumors that Corey may be in need of employment and to his credit, Corey played along telling the Gov..Thanks I’ll be in touch, (Paraphrasing on my part)

Mayor Elliott was the star! Anyone who attempts to sing in front of a large group to try to get a laugh while also being self deprecating gets an A for effort. He may not be the best singer and fumbled his words (which added to the fun) His version of the Wild Rover (No Nay Never) changed to “I’ll never be the wild councilor no more” was outstanding. Others read much more into it than what I think is really there but his other song to the Governor and his song with the Reps. dedicated to Manager Murphy was pretty good and very funny. All in all he was the king of the night and his other jokes about being out so much because he’s the Mayor, he doesn’t recognize his wife was also pretty good.

The Treasurer Deb Goldberg BOMBED! She is NOT a good story-teller or jokester and her attempt fell flat with the crowd. She stopped by to say hello at the tables, is very personable but should be banned from ever speaking at this event in the future for the audiences sake.

State Rep. Tom Golden seemed briefer than usual but was steady as always. His line about Councilor Corey Belanger being the gift that keeps on giving for the BLOGS drew loud laughter (because it’s true) and his shot at his Cousin City Councilor Dan Rourke was great.. (paraphrasing) ..Glad to see my cousin Councilor Dan Rourke has lost over 50 pounds..should make it easier to CARRY HIM this year!

State Rep. Dave Nangle who usually is pretty funny and the phone bit over the past few years became a classic. This year Dave never really hit the mark and even the joke presenting the Gov. with a Chicken Pie from Lenzi’s wasn’t that funny. Hopefully next year, Dave finds a new phone (or better writers).

After the Mayor new State Rep. Rady Mom was the clear star of the night. Funny, warm (often laughing at his own jokes) he was great. (again paraphrasing on my part)..Do you how hard it is to find Hooked on Phonetics for Joke telling??…..My friend Tom Golden took me around my first day at the State House promising he would introduce me to all the really important people I would need to know ,I met the entire leadership and every bartender around the State House..My friend City Councilor Dan Rourke and I have a lot in common, ENGLISH IS BOTH OF OUR 2ND LANGUAGE!

Ted Panos and his co-host on WCAP did a fine job broadcasting but Teddy may have put my Saturday Morning spot in jeopardy. He has Leslie Bodor with him every day and Monday Night had Methuen State Rep. Diana DiZoglio has his co-host. Shaw remarked he has to look at me at 6:00 in the morning and Teddy gets all the women. Panos is out-Shawing Shaw and that may cost me down the road.(send your resumes and head shots to Warren@WCAP)

All in all it was an enjoyable night, raised some money to help in the opiate fight and everyone walked away smiling!

If You missed it, check out Lowell Ch. 22 for the replay (I believe it is on at 9:00 tonight)

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Sunday Notes March 15th 2015

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Lowell High School presents “Beauty and the Beast”
Friday, March 27th and Saturday, March 28th at 7:00 pm in the Cyrus W. Irish Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door. For more information contact Sharon Clark, Fine Arts Department Chair (978) 446-7321

The Warning Signs have been Issued..another Tax increase ahead..

Make no mistake, like our surrounding communities that are struggling with funding the continuing increase in education cost and health care cost, Lowell is facing the same issues and it isn’t the fault of the Manager or Council. Unlike the surrounding communities, Lowell has plenty of excess tax levy capacity (room) to increase your taxes…the warning signs have been issued.

Thursday March 5th in the Lowell Sun – Among other challenges, the school district has forecasted a fiscal 2016 budget deficit of potentially $3 million. Lowell also expects a 9 percent increase, or about $2.5 million, in its employee health-care costs next year. and Pension and contractual obligations are also expected to rise.

Wednesday March 11th in the SUN – The average household would pay an extra $99 a year on its property-tax bill if Lowell were to build a new high school, according to a report presented to the City Council Tuesday. “We’d love to see a new high school, there’s no two ways about it,” Councilor Corey Belanger said. “It would be great for the kids and for the city. But can we afford it?”

GN:(Really? the State is going to meet on this in 2 weeks and the guy who first wanted it OUT of the downtown now wants to question if we can afford it? Where the hell have you been the last year this has been discussed? Didn’t think of asking that before proclaiming it belonged at the South Common? ?? OH WAIT! It’s an ELECTION YEAR! he woke up!)

In this week’s Council Packet we find out that the City with a “level service” budget is looking at appox. a $10 Million dollar shortfall for 2016. There is a great explanation by CFO Conor Baldwin about the challenges ahead, some lower funding from the State and how much Lowell depends on State Aid including this.

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Lowell taxes were kept low under the former Council and Administration, one reason was that the former administration was able to find HUGE Savings in Energy, Trash Cost and Health Insurance and the Council then found it difficult to ask taxpayers in a very depressed economy to raise taxes while the city was putting large amounts of funds into a reserve account.

The Council may have had good intentions but the end result was the taxpayer got lulled into thinking Lowell didn’t have to increase like other communities, even when the Manager at that time in his final budget presentation stated we could not continue this trend of not having minimal increases.

Lowell went up 2.2% this year (don’t be confused by the higher valuation that caused your bill to increase higher than that, that is separate from the actual tax increase itself) and based on the early numbers, I’d say Lowell is looking at an Increase between 2.5% and 3.5% this year…..and it really can’t be helped.

Here’s a radical thought for using existing funds for other uses that I am sure will cause many to be upset. As some of you may know, 5% of your cable bill is sent to the City for their use. Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) gets 2% and the City gets 3%. LTC uses those funds to operate the facility on Market Street and provide Public Access television to the Community.

The City uses its portion to provide funding for Channel 22, the Lowell school’s cable television station, pay for the Municipal Programming (broadcasting all those meetings), and to pay for the costs absorbed by the City IT Department.

What if the city STOPPED funding LTC and used that 2% for other services? Looking at the LTC Audit,it cost over $400,000 for public access. While I understand that a small group of people host and produce shows and that another group of people pay a minimal membership fee, how many total people use this service? How many of the people who pay for cable actually watch or participate in any of these public access shows? In a city of over 100,000 are we supporting even 5000 with LTC public access? With the ability of digital cameras and recorders and YouTube channels to post to, do we still need to fund public access?

I realize it’s an election year and that some people will accuse him of grandstanding but I applaud the Mayor for bringing in the motion to have the City explain the cost of a new or renovated high school. Conor Baldwin, Bob Healy and staff did a great job and made it clear enough that even a guy like me could understand the cost and reasons why.

The Mayor stated it should not be overlooked that this project would take away from the City doing other major capital projects (Police Station) or that it would hamper increasing middle school space which the School Administration and Committee have pointed out will be needed in the coming years. Mayor Elliott also explained that there is no reimbursement for land acquisition which has been talked about. The Medical building that is next to the “New wing” has been mentioned but I haven’t heard anyone mention the Bank building that is across from the High School Auditorium, is already for sale. If the city pays market value, there would be no need for a long drawn out eminent domain fight.

From what I hear, the School Committee hasn’t had a lot of parents (who aren’t teacher’s) apply for the advisory board for the Supt. search committee or from the general public. Parents need to be involved and while many teacher’s do have students in the school system, it appears to me that having them pick their own boss is a little bit of a conflict. I’d volunteer if I didn’t think a few committee members and the Mayor would have an issue with it. I’ve been known to criticize some and some often get upset. However, I am a parent with a student who will be entering High School, have been involved in the PTA and graduated from the system myself. Plus I pay attention, have hired people in the past and am concerned with making sure Lowell gets the best people possible for the Committee to interview and hire the person they feel they can work with to continue to improve the school system.
PLEASE if you are a parent or a business person, the school department needs your help.

Parent representatives will serve on an advisory committee which will be narrow the semi-finalist field to five finalists. These five finalist will be interviewed by the Lowell School Committee. This difficult task will require that the parent representatives to commit to five evening meetings on March 25 and April 6, 7, 8, and 9, 2015. If you are interested, I recommend sending a formal letter of interest to Lowell School Committee through this email account MCassidy@lowell.k12.ma.us

For some reason the School Committee Agenda and Packet are on-line only at the School Dept. Website and NOT the City website. WHY? Here’s some information from the packey I felt was worth sharing.

Anyway, after a really bad winter, the school dept. surveyed parents about the school calendar. Surprisingly very few bothered to respond. In fact only 1,217 people responded and has a result the calendar will remain the same.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 First Day of School – Grades 1‐12
Thursday, December 24, 2015 * Christmas Eve – No School ‐ Holiday Break 
Friday, December 25, 2015 * Christmas Day ‐[Holiday Break: Wednesday, December 24th – Friday, January 2, 2015]
Monday, February 15, 2016 * President’s Day ‐[Mid‐Winter Vacation:Monday, February 15 –Friday, February 19, 2016]
Patriot’s Day ‐ [Spring Break: Monday, April 18th – Friday, April 22, 2016]
Wednesday, June 16, 2016 180th School Day
Wednesday, June 23, 2016 185th School Day  [Includes five (5) Snow Days]

Barring an unexpected emergency that causes schools to be closed, the last day of school this year is: Monday, June 23, 2015

2015 Graduation Dates: Lowell High School Wednesday June 3rd @ 6:00 PM Tsongas Arena Speakers: Mayor Rodney Elliott – School Committee Representative – Arthur Anton Commencement Speaker

Adult Education Friday June 5th @ 7:00 PM Lowell High School Cyrus W. Irish Auditorium Speakers: Mayor Rodney Elliott – School Committee Representative

We also find out that the Lowell Dept will team with a group that assist “homeless” or couch students. These are kids who either are kicked out, leave or are abandoned from their home and live at family or friends or in some cases on the street.

Youth Harbors Rediscovery offers a continuum of services to unaccompanied, homeless high school students and youth who are aging out of foster care, in order to ensure their successful transition to adulthood. Although it is difficult to conclude an exact figure of how many students are homeless unaccompanied youth, LHS House Office staff estimate that there are approximately 60-70 students Youth Harbors could serve on a yearly basis.

Good Luck in whatever the next step in business or work life is to Fred Bahou, who I heard on City Life is in the process of selling the Windsor Shoppe. Being a business owner is tough, especially in these times, it takes a lot of time and puts a lot of stress on the owner and his family. It must have been a tough decision for Fred because he is a 2nd generation owner. God Bless and Good Luck in whatever comes next.

Same to Corey Belanger who I hear is also in the process of selling some or all of his business. The winter has been tough on small business and the restaurant/bar business is especially tough. I may have political differences with the Councilor but no one who has run or tried to run a business deserves anything but best wishes and hope that he lands on his feet.

Next Friday continue your St. Patrick’s day celebration and join the Friends of Gage Field at the East End Club to help raise money to build a new playground. Doors open at Six donations are $10

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City Council Agenda March 17th 2015

LOWELL CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2015
CITY HALL, CITY COUNCIL CHAMBER
TIME 6:30 PM

CITY CLERK
1. CITY CLERK
1.1. Minutes of City Council Meeting March 10th; Personnel SC March 10th, for acceptance.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE CITY MANAGER

2. COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE CITY MANAGER
2.1. Informational Reports
(A) Informational – FY16 Budget Update
2.2. Communication-Approve Out of State Travel for City Manager
2.3. Communication – City Mgr. request approval of Out of State Travel (1) DPD.

VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
3. VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
3.1. Vote-Apply/Accept/Expend Grant ($250,000) Green Communities 2015 Competitive Grant from DOER
3.2. Vote-Approve exemption Kevin P. Dillon MGL c. 268A, s. 20
3.3. Vote-Approve exemption of Kerri A. Bomil from MGL 268A, s.20
3.4. Vote-Auth City Manager Execute Land Disposition Agreement-75 Rock Street
3.5. Vote-Transfer $3,014.45 for the purchase of 2 Hawl Frost Removers used to thaw the ground for burial
3.6. Vote-Transfer $61,000 to repair and service monuments, avenues, winter graves, fencing, water lines,
etc to prepare for Memorial Day weekend.

ORDINANCES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
4. ORDINANCES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
4.1. Ordinance-Amend Ch. 56 entitled Personnel

RESOLUTIONS FROM THE CITY MANAGER
5. RESOLUTIONS FROM THE CITY MANAGER
5.1. Resolution-Support an Act to prohibit gunfire directed at dwelling houses (pending House Docket No.
990)

6. REPORTS (SUB / COMMITTEE, IF ANY)
6.1. Parks & Recreation SC March 17, 2015.
PETITIONS

7. PETITIONS
7.1. Claims – (4) Property.
7.2. Misc. – Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 662 request City Council abandon portion of Eaton Street.
CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS

8. CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS
8.1. C. Mercier – Req. Traffic Engineer place 60 Day Trial handicap parking sign per Andres Ortiz in front of 43 Whipple Street.

8.2. C. Leahy/C. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide an update regarding maintenance of infrastructure in the City.

8.3. C. Milinazzo – Req. City Mgr. have Traffic Engineer investigate the elimination of parking heading
outbound on the right hand side of Broadway Street at the corner of Broadway Street and Dutton
Street.

8.4. C. Rourke/ C. Samaras – Discussion of parking issues in East Pawtucketville neighborhood.

8.5. M. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. request UTEC meet with Youth Services SC to provide annual update.

ADJOURNMENT
9. Time for meeting to stand adjourned.

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