Category Archives: Politics

UTL and School Committee must sit down face to face..is it time to look at Fees?

FEES

The teachers union wants a raise, so does the support staff. The Lowell School Committee Must have some concessions or changes they want to make.

The only way anything will get done is to meet face to face to talk. BOTH sides claims the other has stalled or cancelled meetings. ENOUGH!

Stop playing the blame game and meet July 21st face to face and get this deal don.

IF has reported in today’s Sun the city has offered a 2.5% increase over two years that is a fair offer. What we don’t know is what concessions the Committee is asking for.

IF today’s Sun report of the union wanting a 12% raise over three years, that seems excess.

According to a Sun story from May of this year, approx. employee salaries for the fiscal year 2015/2016 school year,includes $73.7 million for teachers, $11.4 for administrators and $8.85 for paraprofessionals out of an $154,368,116 over all budget. (Over 60% of the entire budget is Salaries)

Most of us who work for a living think we deserve a raise. What we do is valuable to the company. In the case of teachers and support staff there is no doubt that they serves a vital role in the community.

The Union made concessions a few years ago and joined the GIC for health insurance. We are told by the City Manager that both 2015 and the forecast for 2016 show’s a decrease in cost for health insurance when most of us are not only seeing a rise in cost, like the teacher’s and support staff we are seeing a rise in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

Did that savings reach the rank and file? Has anyone asked?

So how do we find more revenue to support giving the teachers and support staff even a .5% raise which would be approx. $600,000?

Have we reached a point that maybe Lowell has to take a step back and look at instituting fees for Clubs, Music/Theater , Athletics and busing? How many of the 14,000 students enrolled in the public school system actually take part in these program and what is the overall cost?

Take a look at most of the surrounding communities in the Merrimack Valley, many have fee’s. If the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, than shouldn’t we look at any and all ways to generate monies to help offset the operations of these specialized programs?

Kids pay fees for local baseball, Pop Warner Football, private swim, wrestling and baseball clubs. Even your neighborhood churches charge a fee for CCD classes. If we need to increase taxes to pay for salary increases, shouldn’t we first look at what is vital and what can be at least partly paid for by the people using the service to subsidize it?

Haverhill Mass charges $100 per sport with a $600 family Max and if a student receives free lunch the fee is waived if they receive a reduced lunch the fee is halved.

Without even looking at the cost of busing (future Post) here is what some of the neighboring communities charge in fees for sports and clubs.

Tewksbury- $150 Fee NO Cap
Dracut – $150 per sport , $900 Cap
Billerica – $150 Fam Max at $600

Tyngsboro has a layered system – Middle School: 1st Sport $200 / 2nd Sport $175 / 3rd Sport $150
High School: 1st Sport $300 / 2nd Sport $200 / 3rd Sport $100

Boston nor Brockton or Worcester charge any fee’s at the moment.

Interestingly Newton which is a pretty wealthy community has a very structured Fee Schedule

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Did this school Committee get together before contract talks began and form a united front and agree on what they wanted in this contract? Is the Mayor who has NOT voted for many union contracts the past few years dragging down the process? Is the personal infighting among these members dragging down the process?

Sunday Notes July 5th 2015

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Money Money Money Money!

I don’t envision a big upset in the City Council race. It should be a pretty quiet race, especially with only 4 challengers and 8 out of 9 Councilors presumed running for reelection. It shouldn’t be a very expensive race on the Council side but the present council isn’t taking chances, with many stocking up their campaign coffers already.

According to the Mass OCPF here’s what the current Councilors have raised so far this year and what they have on hand in their campaign accounts:

Corey Belanger $8,200 (has $5,721.00 in account)
Rodney Elliott $5,307.00 (has $22,177.54 in account)
Ed Kennedy $7,700 (has $9,395.39 in account)
John Leahy $9,800 (has $9,834.76 in account)
Bill Martin $0 (has $13,887.02 in account)
Rita Mercier $4,020.00 ($7,948.38 in account)
Jim Milinazzo $0 ($1,079.36 in account)
Bill Samaras $10,195.00 ($10,300.00 in account)
Dan Rourke $15,145 ($18,200.87 in account)

BTW for those wondering about the St. Patrick Day Ads on WCAP Elliott, Mercier, Samaras and Rourke all have listed expenditures for those ads.

On the Challenger side:
Dave Conway $11,585.00* ($8,642.19 in account) *includes $2,000 “donation to himself” – He also has an expenditure for the St. Patrick Day Ads on WCAP!
Vesna Nuon $905.00 ($426.32 in account)
Paul Ratha Yem $0 ($1,591.20 in account)
Joe Mendonca $50 ($234.40 in account) He also has an expenditure for the St.Patrick Day Ads on WCAP!

The Budget contains NO money for raises…or does it?
According to the Lowell School Dept. Website:

The FY16 budget includes a $ 3 million increase over FY15.

The FY2016 budget utilizes $ 1.1 million in projected FY2015 salary surplus to offset the FY2016 general revenue shortfall.

The budget reflects all known salary increases previously bargained and all known non-salary contractual increases;

Employee salaries have been increased in accordance with the applicable employment agreements and collective bargaining agreements governing the 2015/16 school year;

An amount equivalent to a 1% cost of living increase for all school department union and non-union employees has been included in the school committee suspense account for collective bargaining purposes

All interesting information but I have a question. Why isn’t the entire School Budget posted on the School Dept. Website?

Shouldn’t the public be able to look at it and see where a $154 Million dollars gets used?

No Leader….infighting..canceling meetings….chaos or Why UTL won’t accept a contract from this Committee!

It’s one thing for a big mouth blogger to take shots at elected officials..it’s another thing when they fight among themselves to the point that the Union who represent the majority of employees who work for the School District can see it in newsprint or on a public Facebook page and know that they can wait out this group of dysfunctional “adults” and wait until the School Committee is stacked with more friendly Committee members to get the contract they want.

Even though Kim Scott and Kristin Ross-Sitcawich announced they would not seek re-election, they still are obligated to fill out their current term but judging from their published comments in the SUN, they aren’t above contributing to the dysfunctionality by throwing gasoline on a fire that is already pretty well lit.

Ross-Sitcawich – On Supt. Hiring -hiring was rife with votes based on “friendships, not professional acumen. “Ask anyone familiar with the process and they will tell you personal politics came into play in a big way,”

On hiring: said she is tired of the “backroom stuff, the behind-the-scenes” angling for jobs. She declined to elaborate or name names, but said: “If people only knew.”

Scott: On Supt. Hiring – “We’ve made a decision, and that should be it,” said Scott. “However, there’s a sentiment that lingers, and lingers and lingers.” She declined to elaborate.

On her Public “Lowell City Wide Parent Group” Facebook Page Scott was a bit more blunt ” It annoys me that the loudest proponents against change in the Lowell Public Schools have either sent their own kids to private school (or attempted to), moved out of town, have financial business with the schools, have multiple family members employed, or have advocated for their kids to go to a certain school. Hypocrisy at its finest!

If you are going to make public such damning accusations how do you expect the other members to react? Why would the UTL even try to sit down with this Committee when from all appearances they don’t want to sit down with EACH OTHER! Wednesday Night School Committee meeting might be must see TV! from now until December.

This Committee in my opinion has DRAGGED their feet from the beginning refusing and stalling meeting with the UTL to settle a contract and I’ve heard that they have cancelled two of the last four meetings with a mediator. Does the Committee really just want to go to fact finding? Which by the way is NOT binding! If that is true it highlights the lack of leadership on this committee. Gone are the days of a Mike Gallagher, Bill Taupier or Steve Panagiotakos. No one wants to be a leader and the UTL sees that.

We need someone not afraid to meet with the union face to face . Someone willing to either say Sorry we have to hold the line on salary because …or have someone willing to meet and advocate for the School Dept. and say to the Manager and Council we need to raise the property tax by another .5% or 1% to fund city services including a raise for staff.

Why is it that the School Committee wants Public negotiations with the UTL but you never hear the Manager or Council requesting the Police or 1705 union negotiate in public. Is Paul Georges that intimidating? I’d sit in a room with him.

Remember when the UTL under some pressure agreed to join the GIC? It allowed Lowell to be able to save millions on health cost and the Council to hold taxes to a minimal .5% increase. So why hasn’t a School Committee member or challenger asked this City Manager about sharing some of the Million dollars in savings he claims the city has saved in 2015 and is expected to save in 2016.

Why haven’t challengers taken a stand and talked about the stalled contracts, their position on LHS or asked about the GIC money?

At this point every option on funding needs to be looked at and vetted. Every program and the cost of that program needs to be looked at. Can accounting and administration jobs be combined with the city. Is there a way to save money . Nothing should be off the table, we should PUBLICLY look at all options including fees for athletics, music, drama etc.

Dates to remember…

Friday, July 31, 2015
Last day and hour to obtain nomination papers 5 PM

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Last day and hour to submit nomination papers to the Election Commission 5 PM

Fourth of July Facts – Lowell celebration information

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On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked with red, white and blue flags, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues across the country.

2.5 million
In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation.

318.4 million
The nation’s estimated population on this July Fourth.
Source: U.S. and World Population Clock

The Signers
56
Numbers of signers to the Declaration of Independence.

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston comprised the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration. Jefferson, regarded as the strongest and most eloquent writer, wrote most of the document. It’s also worth noting that:

John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, was the first signer. This merchant by trade did so in an entirely blank space making it the largest and most famous signature — hence the term John Hancock, which is still used today as a synonym for signature. There are 7.4 million businesses with paid employees in the U.S., of those establishments 1 million are in the retail trade industry.

Benjamin Franklin (age 70), who represented Pennsylvania, was the oldest of the signers. Franklin County, Pa., had an estimated population of 152,085 as of July 1, 2013. Edward Rutledge (age 26), of South Carolina, was the youngest.

Two future presidents signed, John Adams (second President) and Thomas Jefferson (third President). Both died on the 50th anniversary of signing the Declaration (July 4, 1826). There are 12 counties nationwide named Adams and 26 named Jefferson.

Robert Livingston, who represented New York, was on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence but was recalled by his state before he could sign it.
Livingston County, N.Y., was home to an estimated 64,705 people as of July 1, 2013.
Representing Georgia in 1776 were Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton. Gwinnett County, Ga. (859,304), Hall County, Ga. (187,745) and Walton County, Ga. (85,754) were named for these signers.

Charles Carroll, who represented Maryland, was the last surviving signer of the Declaration. He died in 1832 at the age of 95. Carroll County, Md., named for him, had an estimated population of 167,564 as of July 1, 2013.

Roger Sherman, who worked as a land surveyor and lawyer, represented Connecticut. Nationally in 2012, there were an estimated 29,976 surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists employed full time, year-round, and 841,077 lawyers employed full time, year-round nationwide.

Nelson County, Va. (14,789) and Wythe County, Va. (29,344) were named for two of the six signers who represented the state of Virginia — Thomas Nelson Jr. and George Wythe.

Lowell Fireworks Information

​Fireworks

Lowell celebrates the 4th on Saturday July 4th at LeLacheur Park!

Join us when the gates open at 7PM for family entertainment and fun. There will be face painting, balloon animals, run the bases, music & videos, and more! Admission to the park is FREE. The fireworks will begin at approximately 9PM.

Though League regulations prohibit outside food and drinks being brought into the stadium, spectators will be able to purchase a wide variety of treats — including ice cream, hot dogs, popcorn, and assorted beverages – from the Park’s concession stands.

FREE PARKING will be available at the Ayotte Garage at the Tsongas Center, a short walk from the park.

The event rain date is July 5th. Visit our web page for more information!​

Throwback Thursday – Political edition – What’s in a Name?

In 2015 they want to put a women’s picture on the $10.00 Bill, back in 1973 City Councilor Gail Dunfey couldn’t get City Clerk Bill Busy to call her by her maiden name.

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The Lowell Sun’s Editorial staff had some fun with the controversy

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The fight over whether to use her maiden went to court and she won. Notice the familiar name of her lawyer.

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However it may have cost her the election when she ran for a 2nd term.

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Lynch already winning praise in Winchendon

Manager Lynch

Manager Lynch

For those wondering how former City Manager Lynch is doing in Winchendon, he has brought along former Lowell Auditor Cheryl Wright to assist and on their 1st day resolved a $93,000 SCHOOL DEPARTMENT Special Ed Transportation shortfall. This from the Gardner News.

Interim Town Manager Resolves Bus Issue
By Damien Fisher
‪#‎Winchendon‬

New Town Manager Bernie Lynch’s contract is already paying dividends for the town as Mr. Lynch was able to solve the special education transportation deficit in his first few days on the job.

“We were able to pay that bill this week,” Mr. Lynch said.

The deficit in the special education transportation budget, estimated at $45,000 on Monday night during a select board meeting, and then estimated again at $93,000 Tuesday night during a meeting of the Finance Committee, is no longer an issue after Mr. Lynch and his financial advisor were able to work with Town Hall staff on the budget. Reclassifying some expenses and using money that was being unnecessarily held for other expenses allowed Mr. Lynch and the staff to work through the issue quickly.

The town will still need a special Town Meeting at the end of the month to go through some year-end transfers to close out the fiscal 2015 books. There are issues in the unemployment budget, as well as veterans services, to name a few.

“We’re talking some pretty large numbers,” he said.

Read more in The Gardner News.

In Fact the so-called “shortfall” was mostly an easily correctable accounting issue that was able to be quickly identified and addressed.

The Veterans shortfall numbers is $100,000 , a $184,000 Snow and Ice Overrun (after FEMA reimbursement) and a large unemployment deficit of $86,00 but they have “found” $300,000 to transfer at a special town meeting Tuesday night (6/30) to close a large portion of that. They will still have a $70,000 deficit for 2015

Besides the deficit in the Special Ed Transportation that was resolved the School Dept. is “Projected” to finish the year with at most $1,000 extra!

In his report on the budget to the selectman, when ask why the deficit in Veterans and Unemployment, Lynch made sure NOT to place blame on the past administration but instead said we need to take a better look at forecasting to insure it doesn’t happen again. He also stated that the snow and ice could deficit could be spread over a 3 year period but he was NOT a fan of doing that.

Has it stands now, they are looking at least a $64,000 shortfall for Fiscal 2016 before they have had a chance to look at projections in the unemployment, veterans and other accounts so that will have to be done and addressed at an October Town meeting.

The towns biggest issue is the large deficit in the health care trust fund. Much like when Lowell was self insured, Winchendon had a trust fund to pay claims that apparently was never adequately funded and the town is facing a $400,000-$500,000 deficit that will have to be addressed.

In the June 23rd meeting Manager Lynch suggested to the Selectman that they consider forming an Ad-Hoc committee composed of members of the Selectman, School Committee, Town Administrator, Auditor, Supt. of Schools and School Business Manager to study revenue projections for the next few years and economic development opportunities. (Where have I heard of a similar group?)

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