A great program for anyone interested in weight loss

Taking a break from critiquing the School Administration and School Committee to recommend to any of my blog readers who may be interested in losing weight to go visit Greater Lowell
Chiropractic & Rehabilitation and their Ideal Protein Weight Loss Program.

I’ve been a member of the program for six weeks and have lost 26 pounds along with an inch from my waistline.

You eat a diet program food or drink for Breakfast (along with your coffee, if you choose), 2 cups of vegetables along with a program food at lunch and up to 8 oz of protein with 2 more cups of vegetables for dinner.

They also offer various healthy snacks for those that need something between meals or if you’re like me for a nighttime snack / desert. You also take some vitamin supplements to keep you healthy along the way.

Miranda who meets with you each week is also a program member and will be a valuable asset and your biggest booster along the way. She has lost 80 #’s on the program and continues to use it.

Dr. Broderick is always around to step up and offer encouragement and a laugh along with Dr. Joe Downs who knows everyone.

If you follow the plan, you’re not hungry and you lose the weight. It’s not a fast process but a steady one that also helps you change your unhealthy food habits.

Call or go to the Website and set up an appt to talk to Miranda!

Dr. Broderick is proud to say that when patients come into the clinic they are treated like family. “Patients quickly understand that we are here for them, to serve them and to get them well,”

Lowell Schools used to try very hard to keep unknown people out for security and safety reasons

School-Committee-web

I think the schools will be closed on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 due to that day’s Presidential Primary election. In the recent past, the schools have been closed on election day in November. The reason for this is that several schools are used as polling places. Throughout the year, schools try very hard to keep unknown people out for security and safety reasons, but on election day, everyone is allowed in. It’s a policy that makes a lot of sense to me. One thing that didn’t make sense was that the schools were only closed for the general election, but were open for primaries and preliminaries. The policy implied that dangerous individuals, like many voters, didn’t bother with preliminaries or primaries and only came out in November. If this new policy does, in fact, close the schools for every election, it would seem more consistent and prudent..Richard Howe February 2016 (Bold Mine)

Volunteers must complete a CORI form each year. Bring your photo ID in…Policy in Lowell Public Schools

So a parent who wants to help at school, chaperone a Field Trip or be a PTO member must undergo a cori check, we close school on Election Day(s)for safety but this Supt. and School Committee want to open the elementary and middle schools to Anyone two hours a month?

Not only that but they will give them a lift to get them to the schools…How is this Safe or Sensible ? Even Open Houses and Parent meetings aren’t usually held when school is in session for safety reasons.

Lowell Public Schools Doors Open – By opening our doors we expand access, provide greater transparency and share the decision-making with our community.

You do expand access for any predator to get into and scope out the Elementary and Middle Schools! Who thought this was safe and okay for our kids?

The first Wednesday of every month is “Doors Open”!

Doors Open 2016-2017

September 7: Daley, Bailey & Molloy Career Academy Schools
October 5: Sullivan School, J.G. Pyne School & Leblanc School
November 2: Butler School, Shaughnessy School & Cardinal O’Connell School
December 7: Peter W. Reilly School & Stoklosa School
January 4: Bartlett Community Partnership School & Robinson School
February 8: Christa McAuliffe, Murkland & Greenhalge School
March 8: Moody School and E.N. Rogers STEM Academy
April 5: McAvinnue, Pawtucketville Memorial & Dr. An Wang Schools
May 3: Morey & Abraham Lincoln Schools
June 7: George Washington School & Laura E. Lee School

All Doors Open sessions are 10:00am – 12:00pm (approximate)

If I had a child still in the Elementary or Middle Schools I’d be opposed to allowing my child’s classroom to be viewed! Parents have to sign a waiver to allow photos, now the school dept is going to let anyone in the community to see our students up close?

No Cori for them just for parents and grandparents that want to be involved.

The School Committee and Administration need to review this idea.

Sunday Notes August 21st 2016

School Dept. has a $527,000 deficit: Admin. either deceitful or inept

Salah  Khelfaoui Sun Photo Bob Whitaker

Salah Khelfaoui
Sun Photo Bob Whitaker

This is my final post regarding the fiasco that was the close of the 2015/2016 School Dept. Fiscal year. My frustration has been well documented and it appears nothing has or will change until the School Committee is faced with a filling a funding shortfall of $527,000 and having no funds to pay for the Kindergarten Para’s.

When the City doesn’t have the funding, maybe then the Committee will wake up and realize how either deceitful or inept this Supt. and his hand-picked CFO really are.

It appears only Connie Martin and Bob Gignac are as concerned about the finances as I am and the remaining School Committee members are instead concerned with giving contracts, giving an Asst. Supt. a HUGE raise and Deputy title that isn’t needed along with giving child predators a free bus ride to the elementary and middles schools once a month. To hell with the deficit lets just spend more and blame the city for improper funding.

I’ve stated often that this was exactly what was going to happen with this Supt. and administration. The 2016/2017 budget was going to be short and they would want the city to bail them out.

I might have had my issues with the gang of 4 who hired this SUPT.(and then left for various reasons) but I cannot in any way, shape or form see them letting the financial situation that is being presented, re-presented, supposedly corrected and presented again happen. On top of that they pushed to close schools on Election Day due to the unrestricted public access while this committee votes to open the doors wide two hours a month for potential predators and provide them a free ride to boot.

This Supt. and his hand picked inexperienced in Mass Municipal practices CFO have continuously presented misinformation or partial information on a regular basis, they have clearly shown they either do NOT know the general laws nor understand them or are simply trying to be deceitful and hide money and facts from the committee.

This Administration presents such half fact information that in no ways makes understanding the numbers easy for either the public or School Committee and that is totally unacceptable if Jay Lang and Jean Franco had done even a little of this, they would have been criticized and admonished by the Scott-Conway-KRS and Mayor Elliott group and rightfully so!!

Today Andy D – Hoey – Doherty and Mayor Kennedy want to praise and give contracts and raises for providing this nonsense.

Gendron seems to be walking a fine line not being very critical (most people speculate that he feels indebted to the Supt. for his handling of a past incident).

Had a majority of the School Committee or City Council members heard before Wednesday night’s sub-committee meeting about the supposed “understandings with the City side to cover the $527,000 shortfall? I’m hearing not !

The “SURPRISE” News that the City has “agreed” to provide additional funds or supposedly return funds to the School Dept. wasn’t known by many before Wednesday’s meeting. I’ve never heard the City side talk about it and based on comments in today’s Sun Column by the City Manager, I’m pretty confident NOTHING is “guaranteed” when it comes to the $527,000.

The story that I heard most this week from several sources is the Mayor approached the Manager in late May stating that the schools would have approx. $2.1 million in “free cash” but would need approx. $600,000 to cover Kindergarten Para cost and could that amount be sent to a suspense account.

Supposedly the Manager agreed only to see instead the Supt. and his CFO play games and spend millions in June on Technology and other items, only to declare they had $51,000 or so remaining in local funds. That supposedly is the $600,000 the Supt. says the city agreed to refund. He never mentioned nor did the mayor state to the Manager that the School Administration was going to fleece the city out of the other $1.5 million by using all the local free cash.

The Supt’s reputation for being difficult to work with, especially for town / city managers seems well deserved.

There is also no CLEAR explanation available on-line or in the School Committee packet that shows exactly what was left over in the Circuit breaker account or with $548,000 of that account being returned to the city, What was the need to transfer $132,000 into that account?

The CFO and Supt. can’t even keep their misinformation straight!

If you follow the infamous, convoluted transfers presented by the SUPT. and CFO in June it only adds to the head scratching.

Look at the First Transfer submitted by the Supt. / CFO dealing with the Circuit Breaker funds
Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 8.51.23 AM

It shows a total of $940,461 transferred to cover Special Ed Out of District Cost and it notes that it was their (Supt./CFO) plan to carry over in excess of $3,090,016 into the 2016/2017 Fiscal year.

At that School Committee meeting Connie Martin was the ONLY school Committee member who even questioned why we didn’t want to use the Circuit Breaker funds and the CFO stated they didn’t want to because if they used “local money” the city couldn’t take it back as “free cash”. With the exception of Bob Gignac who has been questioning things all along the rest sat there like they had no idea what was going on.

Between that meeting and the June 15th meeting, the Administration found out that by law they could NOT carry-over more than roughly $2.3 Million (This is what happens when you hire inexperienced people they don’t know the laws yet we pay them at the experienced salary level)

So at the June 15th meeting they “modified” the June transfers to show this with the attached explanation.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 8.50.29 AM

So now only $132,986.00 was being transferred to the special ed account instead of the original amount of $940,461 with the explanation that the money would be paid from the Circuit Breaker acct.

That is is difference of $807,475.00 so the “in excess” of $3,090,016 was actually closer to $4,000,000?

Did the CFO and Supt. NOT know that?? How and Why if they did, didn’t they bring in the full amount? If they didn’t know, Why didn’t they?

If the Circuit Breaker really only had $3,090,016 or even if it had $3,590,016 then the $807,475.00 expense instead of the $940,461.00 would have left $2,282,541.00 or $2,782,541.00 which is pretty close to the $2.3 Million allowed to be carried over.

If the Circuit Breaker had $500,000 or $600,000 left over, why was there even a need to transfer $132,986 into that account in the first place?

So why did the CFO/SUPT. come in with the $3,090,016 number? To purposely be deceitful or are they just unaware of how much money was available and what the real expenses are?

Was there really $500,000 or $600,000 left over in Circuit breaker account? Let’s not forget at one point the Supt. and CFO CLAIMED (Erroneously)that they received 5 payments instead of 4. They didn’t realize that the first payment in July was for the 4th quarter in the previous year! That’s just another example of the lack of understanding in the Finance Department of the Lowell School System.

This is my issue with the Supt. and CFO, they are either deliberately supplying false or half fact information purposely or they have no real firm grasp on what they do actually have. Our schools had come a long way and the crash that is ahead under this leadership will take years to rebuild.

The lack of clear information should be setting off all sorts of RED FLAGS but so far it’s only Gignac and Martin who seem the least bit concerned. Let’s see what the concern is when they have to find the funding for the Kindergarten Para’s because the city doesn’t have the money!!

With the budgets always growing due to insurance and labor cost, transportation and outside tuition for Special Education always rising and the increase cost of materials, we need a SUPT. and / or at the very least a competent CFO to insure the fiscal health of this department and we need a School Committee that will DEMAND 100% facts the first time they are presented with issues not wait 1-3 meetings for things to shake out and get corrected.

It has reached the point that I almost wish Kim Scott – KRS- Dave Conway and Mayor Elliott were still there!

They at least all showed a fundamental understanding of how the system worked and understood the relationship between the Supt. / CFO was supposed to work. They were the bosses! With the exception of Martin and Gignac the others appear to want to defer to the Supt. / CFO

I wanted to throw up when Jackie Doherty made a motion to ask the Supt. /CFO to present a dollar figure they felt was required for the School Committee to vote to approve for transfers. Especially with Gendron and Gignac supported it.

The School Committee should be telling the Administration that ANYTHING that isn’t under the same Heading (the same page as the CFO calls it) MUST be approved and that anything over $10,000 or 5% on the same page needs to be brought forward for approval.

You were elected to be the people’s eyes and voice and to watch over and run the schools, not sit there and ask the Supt. How are things?

If you, as members of the school committee are NOT going to work to understand the budget, the transfer process and your fiscal responsibilities and demand 100% accurate and complete information the first time from the Administration, do the voters a favor and don’t run for re-election.

You’ve already supplied challengers with plenty of reasons to oust you. Thanks for your attempt but you are failing so you need to walk away.

If you intend on staying, do your homework, start holding the CFO and Supt. accountable and stop allowing the half fact information or allowing for their “inexperience” to be used to justify their screw ups.

They are getting paid at the rate of experts, make them act like they are or come November, do the right thing for the District, the City, the Parents, Staff and students of Lowell and DO NOT re-appoint this Supt. for another year!

School Committee should approve Transfers – Create End of Year Plan

School-Committee-web

The Lowell School Committee has very little choice but to approve the transfers at tonight’s meeting dealing with the 2015/2016 Fiscal year.

The vote the Supt. is seeking is to correct multiple year end negative accounts and fix the transfers from June and while it isn’t ideal nor is it anywhere close to “Best Practice” it is better to get a slap on the wrist for making late corrections than to possibly have to reimburse the Food Service Account mid-year.

City, State and Municipal officials I have spoken with explained that if they did not approve the transfers, the city would be on the hook for the stupid, illogical (and in all likelihood borderline illegal) transfers that the Supt.’s brought forward in June.

At that time without making it clear to the School Committee (who weren’t smart enough to ask for a complete breakdown, instead “trusting” the Supt. and CFO) the Supt. tried to “expense” a very large portion of his total salary ($80K) to Food Services (many wonder if FEDS / State will even allow the $5,500 he is reducing it to) along with HUGE portions of the CFO’s and the Human Resources Director’s salaries (their’s were almost 40% ) and are being drastically reduced at tonight’s meeting.

Two separate Officials suggested strongly to me that The School Committee and/or the Finance Sub Committee should demand and work out a definitive time table with the CFO to close the books BEFORE the required June 30th date and to suggest “freezing” purchases effective June 1 so that the School Committee gets the opportunity to see what “free Cash” is really left and to talk with the City on keeping all or at least a large percent of that money.

Both pointed out the following in the newly signed Act modernizing municipal finance and government and how Lowell could use some of this “Free Cash” on this because of the unpredictable nature of Special Education.

Section 13E. Any school district which accepts this section, by a majority vote of the school committee and a majority vote of the legislative body or, in the case of a regional school district by a majority vote of the legislative bodies in a majority of the member communities of the district, may establish and appropriate or transfer money to a reserve fund to be utilized in the upcoming fiscal years, to pay, without further appropriation, for unanticipated or unbudgeted costs of special education, out-of-district tuition or transportation. The balance in such reserve fund shall not exceed 2 per cent of the annual net school spending of the school district. Funds shall only be distributed from the reserve funds after a majority vote of the school committee and a majority vote of the board of selectman or city council, or, in the case of a regional school district by a majority vote of the board of selectmen or city council in a majority of the member communities of the district

Hopefully the Committee is bright and knowledgable enough to chastise BOTH the CFO and Supt. for the ragtag, unprofessional, amateurish and sneaky way they handled closing the fiscal year and handling of the “free Cash” taking away any significant contributions, suggestions or directive opportunities from the School Committee.

The CFO and Supt. have made this district and this committee look inept and if the committee allows this than many of them should be voted out next year. They were elected to lead not to be lambs led to slaughter and made to look foolish by the CFO and Supt.

DOR responds – Chapt SEC 33B changes wording but not dates – Sect 56A not changed

Hello Mr. Nutter,

In reference to your inquiry, please review Section C of the following Information Guideline Release: http://www.mass.gov/dor/docs/dls/publ/igr/2006/igr06-209.pdf

Also, your public information request has been reviewed and completed. It is a large paper document and is available at our Boston office. Please let me know how you’d like to arrange receipt.

Take care,

Dan

In addition it was suggested to me by an elected official from another community to look at the new Act modernizing municipal finance and government that was just signed by Gov. Baker

BillH4565

Based on these links and documents, I still don’t understand how the Supt. of Schools can bring in transfers on August 17th 2017 that affect the 2015/2016 budget and bottom line? Maybe a School Committee member will ask.

Section 56A. The fiscal year of all cities of the commonwealth shall begin with July first and end with the following June thirtieth, notwithstanding the provisions of their respective charters, and the returns made to the director under section forty-three shall show the financial condition of the city at the close of business on June thirtieth; provided, however, that the treasurer shall, until July fifteenth, enter in the books all items for the payment of bills incurred and the salaries and wages earned during the previous fiscal year, excepting payment of school teachers’ salaries which have been deferred under the provisions of section forty of chapter seventy-one, and the expenditures therefor shall be deemed to be as of June thirtieth preceding.

Current:
Section 33B.
(a) On recommendation of the mayor, the city council may, by majority vote, transfer any amount appropriated for the use of any department to another appropriation for the same department. In addition, the city council may, by majority vote, on recommendation of the mayor, transfer within the last 2 months of any fiscal year, or during the first 15 days of the new fiscal year to apply to the previous fiscal year, an amount appropriated for the use of any department other than a municipal light department or a school department to the appropriation for any other department, but the amount transferred from 1 department to another may not exceed, in the aggregate, 3 per cent of the annual budget of the department from which the transfer is made. Except as provided in the preceding sentence, no transfer shall be made of any amount appropriated for the use of any city department to the appropriation for any other department except by a 2/3 vote of the city council on recommendation of the mayor and with the written approval of the amount of the transfer by the department having control of the appropriation from which the transfer is proposed to be made. No transfer involving a municipal light department or a school department shall be made under the previous sentence without the approval of the amount of the transfer by a vote of the municipal light department board or by a vote of the school committee, respectively.

(b) A town may, by majority vote at any meeting duly held, transfer any amount previously appropriated to any other use authorized by law. Alternatively, the selectmen, with the concurrence of the finance committee or other entity establish under section 16 of chapter 39, may transfer within the last 2 months of any fiscal year, or during the first 15 days of the new fiscal year to apply to the previous fiscal year, any amount appropriated for the use of any department other than a municipal light department or a school department to the appropriation for any other department or within a department, but the amount transferred from 1 department to another or within a department may not exceed, in the aggregate, 3 per cent of the annual budget of the department from or within which the transfer is made or $5,000, whichever is greater.

REVISIONS Under Bill H.4565 189th (Current)
An Act modernizing municipal finance and government

SECTION 75. Subsection (a) of section 33B of said chapter 44, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- In addition, the city council may, by majority vote, on recommendation of the mayor, transfer within the last 2 months of any fiscal year, or during the first 15 days of the new fiscal year, to apply to the previous fiscal year, any amount appropriated, other than for the use of a municipal light department or a school department, to any other appropriation.

SECTION 76. Subsection (b) of said section 33B of said chapter 44, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- Alternatively, the selectmen, with the concurrence of the finance committee or other entity established under section 16 of chapter 39, may transfer within the last 2 months of any fiscal year, or during the first 15 days of the new fiscal year to apply to the previous fiscal year, any amount appropriated, other than for the use of a municipal light department or a school department, to any other appropriation.

Sunday Notes August 14th 2016

Ironic School Committee Policy !

Look at the policy below and you have to wonder if the Supt. or School Committee read or understand their own posted policy.

What happened to “will place before the committee all relevant facts? Did the Committee receive all relevant facts when voting on Transfers or expenditures in June?

Point out where the breakdown of the $243,000 for misc Admin Cost was in the packet? Yes the School Committee was less than stellar approving a transfer without the information but the policy states it is the Supt. who is supposed to supply ALL the required information.

Where in the June 1st or June 15th packets does it show the technology purchases would use almost all the “free cash” for the 2015/2016 school year? Did the Committee know that’s what they were doing?

Is the Supt. purposely making this committee look like they don’t have a fiscal clue?

Relationship

When is the deadline to stop making adjustments to the 2015/2016 Budget?

According to a longtime Fiscal Municipal expert I contacted

Technically a City/Town or School Dept. has until July 15 to make budget adjustments (which need to be voted by the City Council, Selectman or School Committee). After that, they should not be adjusting the budget.

Although they “close” the books then, they can continue to make adjustment to correct errors after that.

This is typical as the Auditor reviews the books to prepare for the annual outside audit. The Auditor may also accept encumbrances for invoices for goods or services provided before June 30, but received well after year-end.

I attempted to get an answer from the City CFO or City Managers office and the Mass Dept. of Revenue but received no response to emails I sent.

There is a transfer request on this week’s School Committee agenda that would reduce the $80,000 the Supt. charged of his salary to food service, reduce the $40K charge of the CFO’s salary to around $20K and the $30K he charged of the HR Directors Salary to $16K.

I guess he is attempting to correct a very big error.

Combine that error with not knowing the end of year purchasing regulations and not knowing how much Circuit Breaker Money can legally be carried over and you begin to understand my concerns about the fiscal knowledge of this Administration.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 3.24.46 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-12 at 3.35.01 PM

But hey he made us look bad, doesn’t know Circuit breaker rules and has to ask about purchasing processes at years end, so what?

Let’s give him a contract!
Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 3.35.38 PM

What has happened to “Transparency?

I thought this Supt. and Committee was “committed to be open and transparent?

If you go to the Lowell School Department Website and download a copy of the School Committee Packet posted on-line for the June 15th meeting and available to the public you will find items missing.

Here is the current on-line Packet:
SC_Meeting_6.15.16

Now look at the revised Transfer list under Approve Meeting Minutes of June 1st supplied to the School Committee and submitted to the City

Budget Transfers 06 15 16

On the School Dept Website available to the Public and to City Officials the following 2 transfers are missing:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.44.48 AM

How are Transfers processed?

On the city side, if the transfer remains within the department, and under the same statutory classification (i.e. salaries or ordinary expenses), a transfer request must be signed off by the department head and the CFO. If a transfer is across departments, or between statutory classifications (i.e. from salaries to ordinary expenses), the signed transfer request must be received along with a copy of the Council vote from the Clerk’s office prior to the transfer being recorded.

On the school side, a request would be received from the School Business Administrator and would require the minutes from the School Committee indicating that the request was approved. Once all of this is received, then the transfer would be recorded.

What’s the Deal with the City “paying” for School Busing?

In the 2016/2017 Budget book presented by the Supt. of Schools he points out several times that the City is responsible for Transportation cost and in fact on page 4 shows the following:

Net School

After watching what the Supt. was able to do with the “Free Cash” situation I would dare say he will be watching things closely to make sure the city complies with meeting their NET School spending in 2016/2017. In fact I suspect that any shortfall that arises this year will be tossed at the city to provide funds since in his budget presentation he made several mentions of the busing not being paid by the city.

Based on the Supt.’s submitted budget and page 4 above in order for the City of Lowell to meet their REQUIRED “Net School Spending” for the 2016/2017 fiscal year the City will have to prove an indirect contribution of $31,793,130 since the Supt. deducted the transportation from the cash contribution.

Since Lowell has to add classrooms at a couple of schools, that should help. What makes this really interesting is from 2011 – 2015 the City has never charged In-direct cost higher than
$22,931,539

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.16.25 AM

So it will be very interesting to see how things progress and what happens to next year’s school budget or for that matter this year’s school budget. The Supt has set it up so he can tell the Sun and WCAP that he addressed his concerns in the budget yet the current school committee ignored it and never asked for a direct clear explanation.

Did “Circuit Breaker” change put Budget in Jeopardy?

If you listen to the June 1st meeting of the School Committee you hear Connie Martin asking the CFO why in his original Transfer request the School Dept. wasn’t using Circuit Breaker money and he explained and wrote in the original transfer request:

The purpose of this transfer is to pay for the remaining special education costs for 2015-16 from the local expense account in lieu of using the circuit breaker account. Maintaining a balance in excess of $3,090,016 was planned for in the 2016-17 budget.

However, because he nor the Supt. knew that you can only carry-over up to 1 year’s worth of funding when he submitted the revised transfer under “Approval of Minutes from June 1 meeting did the amount expected to carry over for the Circuit Breaker account which was now being reduced by around half a million dollars have any effect on the 2016/2017 budget which the CFO had stated was based on carrying over $3,090,016?