LTC Domain Issue??

I was attempting to click onto LTC to again listen to the last school committee meeting while I did some spreadsheets (I know it is a sickness, normal people prefer the radio or Spotify etc.) but when I click on this link:

ScreGoogle LTCe 11.07.40 AM

It brings me to this:

Generic LTC

Tough week with the Folk Festival this weekend to apparently have a Domain issue!

Fiscal Warning signs again shown at the last School Committee meeting.

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Look at the above photos, notice transfers listed at $80,000 – $40,000 – $30,000 and if you listen to the School Committee meeting from July 20th the School Committee did NOT have specific reasons when they voted on these transfers when they took place!! WHAT??

The City Manager is supposed to explain why he transfers amounts exceeding $25,000 but the Supt. of schools can transfer $80,000 out of food service and then into food service from Supt. Salary and Wages and he doesn’t need permission nor to inform his bosses clearly why?

He doesn’t think he needs to present transfers to get approval to put funds into items running in the negative from the school committee and can just do a year end “cleanup”?

There is a solid reserve in Food Service, why the need to use $150K from front office salaries to “pay indirect cost” for food service? What exactly are those cost and why were they not accounted for in the budget?

You wonder why I have been so alarmed about the fiscal status of this School Dept. and we are finding out information like this in a July meeting after the budget for the upcoming school year is about to close?

Is is true that “As far as the City and City Auditor are concerned, the bottom line, not the specific line item balance, is what is important.”?

Why would that be? Especially if by LAW the usage of the Food Service monies is supposed to be very defined?

Look at what has occurred in Winchendon folks and you should start being as concerned about the financial state of the Schools as I am and be as outraged by the seemingly oh well he’s new attitude that many school committee people (THANK GOODNESS NOT ALL) seem to have.

When I spoke about his arrogance yesterday I hadn’t seen his comment about his evaluation -. Dr. Khelfaoui is soliciting the current Committee and the past Committee’s input into his one-year Formative
evaluation

I have never heard of asking people who are no longer in office and haven’t been for 7 months to come back and evaluate an employee have you?

He wants the four people who hired him but are gone along with former member Leary who has been a City Councilor to take part in his evaluation? Why and how would they know how he has been responding the last 7 months?

Yet Mayor Ed Kennedy wants to give him a contract?????

Sunday Notes July 24th. 2016

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Green Spoon excellent choice for Lunch in downtown!

Im out of the city weekdays working in Marlborough but yesterday my daughter took me to lunch in downtown Lowell at a place called GreenSpoon it was a great experience. I’m on a limited diet but had steak tips with mushrooms pepper and onions that were fantastic. She had the Lemon-Thyme Chicken Sandwich and a drink called the Green Hulk that she raved about. Do yourself a favor and try it out.

For those who still curse the Lynch Administration

IF you look at how tight our present budget is, imagine what state we would be in if we did not have these savings reported in the City Council packets the past and present weeks:

Switching to GIC
To project the savings accrued since the city joined the GIC, we reviewed the city’s claim history and total premium costs prior to entering the GIC with Cook and Company Insurance Services, a consulting firm that worked with the city when we were self-insured. Based on a projected forecast of 8%, the estimated savings from FY13 to date would be $12.6 million in saving

Ameresco – HEY Rodney, you still in opposition???

The city has saved about $4.7 million on energy costs since starting an efficiency and solar-energy program in 2010, according to a new report.

Over a 20-year period, the city expects to save more than $40 million through measures like more efficient lighting, heating and cooling-equipment upgrades, replacing windows and improving insulation.

Lowell has separately saved about $775,000 through solar-panel systems installed at the city’s water utility and wastewater facilities, and at systems in Athol and Orange from which the city uses so-called net-metering credits to save on its energy bills.

“It’s definitely an exciting story to tell,” said Katherine Moses, the city’s energy manager, who prepared the report.

Manager Murphy may have calmed the political waters and has the advantage of not having to deal with bad Rodney but if is wasn’t for the savings listed above that began during the Lynch administration, this city would have been laying off police instead of hiring them and raising taxes that would use all of our built up “excess” tax levy and using more reserves than we have already.

Lynch was stopped by the City Councilor’s from raising taxes because of the savings he and his staff created.

Murphy understands that even in good times minimal tax increases are necessary and has raised taxes every year since becoming Manager.

You don’t find these headline under Manager Murphy: Elliott suggested an across-the-board cut of 2.5 percent to every line item or Rodney Elliott’s proposal – “Lynch to put all $1.5 million toward reducing the planned tax increase because taxpayers are struggling to pay their bills. Elliott was the lone councilor to vote against the budget because of the tax increases it included.”

His ” little brother ” behaves and rubber stamps what Manager Murphy wants. If it wasn’t for Ameresco (Which Elliott fought against) and the GIC savings Lowell would be in even worse financial shape than I think that we are.

Contract for School Supt. irresponsible and nothing more than Political game!

The BS line in today’s Sun that suggest ” the rumor mill starts up again that Khelfaoui might not be in Lowell much longer”. The excuse that Mayor Kennedy is working to change that by getting him a contract shows the real political pettiness of Ed Kennedy.

Kennedy was against a contract for the City Manager but will somehow try to justify giving this Supt. a contract?

It’s nothing but his petty political payback against Manager Murphy and Councilor Elliott for their attempts at screwing him out of the Mayors position after promising him their support for his vote for Murphy to become Manager!

The Supt. in his first year in Lowell has rightfully earned a reputation for not responding to people, whether it’s a parent group, city dept. head or Supt. from another School district. He also has shown he doesn’t like criticism or challenges to his views.

He showed his arrogance and disdain for his bosses on the school committee when he told the Sun this past winter “The beauty of me in all of this is you can go ahead and fire me any time you want. I’m ready to retire, so I don’t really care about any of the politics.”

In his first budget presentation to the City of Lowell School Committee, he had to change the date of the presentation several times, never televised them live for “transparency” or for the public to see and not using City Hall Council Chambers except one of the meetings after a regular scheduled Committee meeting the same night the Finance sub-committee was supposed to review the budget and scheduling an Executive Session between the regular meeting and sub-committee meeting.

His lack of oversight resulted in a poorly drafted RFQ for modular classrooms causing middle school classes of 25 or more and trying to convince parents to send 5th graders to a STEM school with no certainty of where those students would go in 6th grade.

During one budget session School Committee member Robert Gignac had to point out he was suggesting using food service funds to pay health teacher salaries and it wasn’t allowed by law.

Jean Franco / Jay Lang budgets have generally ended with a fiscal year surplus that allows for one time purchases while this administration which show many negative account balances projects to finish the 2015/2016 school year “breaking even”.

His administration mishandled badly the racial texting incident involving the son of one of his present bosses, many solid hard working people in the school system have left or retired because of his lack of communication and he created a chief of staff positions / Aide de camp / driver using a political connected person who was supposed to be the Asst. HR director. He has a full time Executive Secretary but you need to contact the Asst. HR person to get a meeting set up or confirmed.

He maybe correctly but certainly cowardly addressed what he believes is a budget shortfall due to transportation cost by putting in his budget presentation the following narrative

The Superintendent’s Recommended FY2017 budget sustains the existing district programs and services provided in FY2016 and continues the expansion of the Rogers STEM Academy for students in grades Pre-K through 4 and (2) strands of 5th grade.

A general fund operating budget of $ 158.4 million to be reduced by the transportation costs of $7,819,660 is required to accomplish these initiatives. The transportation costs are paid by the Lowell Public Schools, however it is the responsibility of the City. This requires an additional amount of $7,819,660 to fundtransportation bringing the total budget to $158.4 million. This represents an increase of $4.1 million, or 2.66%, in FY2017 over that of the FY2016 funding levels.

Yet I hear he NEVER brought that up to the City Manager or City CFO in any budget discussion. In addition Mayor Kennedy or any School Committee member properly addressed this during the budget discussions or in any meeting since.

This Supt. played a large part in the town budget issues in Winchindon and this proposed budget for fiscal 2016/2017 is built on a prayer and I for one fully expect the school dept to either have to do mid-year cuts or ask for more money from the city to operate.

A contract specifically calling out a set number of years is NOt required, not sensible and not that much different from his current MOU that he agreed to when taking the job. Offering him one is nothing more than petty political payback.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
THE CITY OF LOWELL SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND DR. SALAH KHELFAOUI

Memorandum of understanding (“Mou”) between the city of Lowell school committee (Committee) and Dr. Salah Khelfaoui (“Khelfaoui”) relative to his appointment as Superintendent of Lowell Public Schoots (“Superintendent”) for the City of Lowell, effective June 4,2015.
Pursuant to this Mou, the Parties agree that Khelfaoui,s employment shall be governed by the same terms set forth in the city of Lowell ordinance $56-6 (“personnel,,) as it provides for certain enumerated benefits, including but not limited to: insurance coverage, vacation time, sick leave, holidays, personal days, family leave, bereavement leave, and personal leave. In addition to the four weeks of vacation provided in the ordinance, the committee is also providing an additional 5 vacation days for a total of 25 vacation days per academic year.

In the event that the Committee does not intend to employee Khelfaoui for the start of a new academic year, the committee agrees to notify Khelfaoui in writing of its intent the prior December, on the 1st of that month.

The committee, pursuant to MGL c.71, $59, agrees to compensate Khelfaoui $185000.00 per fiscal year, which is accrued hourly and paid on a weekly basis. The committee shall provide a $300.00 per month travel allowance in lieu of a mileage reimbursement.

IN witness WHEREOF, the School committee of the city of Lowell has voted that this Memorandum of Agreement be entered into and duly attested by its clerk, and Khelfaoui has signed and executed this Memorandum of Agreement this A+\ [u, of June 2015.
Date: June 4, 2015

The loophole in the Mass. assault weapons ban will be closed – By Maura Healey

MH

GN: Atty. General Maura Healy isn’t happy with what she perceives as loopholes in the Mass ban of assault weapons and has issued a directive to ALL Mass. Gun Dealers and Manufacturer’s :

That will end now. On Wednesday, we are sending a directive to all gun manufacturers and dealers that makes clear that the sale of these copycat assault weapons is illegal in Massachusetts. With this directive, we will ensure we get the full protection intended when lawmakers enacted our assault weapons ban, not the watered-down version of those protections offered by gun manufacturers.

The directive specifically outlines two tests to determine what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” of a prohibited weapon. If a gun’s operating system is essentially the same as that of a banned weapon, or if the gun has components that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon, it’s a “copy” or “duplicate,” and it is illegal. Assault weapons prohibited under our laws cannot be altered in any way to make their sale or possession legal in Massachusetts.

We recognize that most residents who purchased these guns in the past believed they were doing so legally, so this directive will not apply to possession of guns purchased before Wednesday.

You can read her Op-Ed piece published in today’s GLOBE here.

Sunday Notes July 17th 2016

2016-0Negative numbers7-15 at 2.03.33 PM

” Break Even” and I’m worried!

Generally at the end of a fiscal year in both the city and school side there is some money remaining from all of the accounts that is termed “Free Cash”. History will show on the school side it is usually around $1,000,000 which allows the School Committee and Administration some flexibility for 1 time purchases of technology or text book.

Much like the City side which was extremely low, we are being told the school side will “Break Even”. I’m no municipal finance guru nor do I play one on the blog or radio but in my small business world I cannot run negative accounts without transferring funds from one to another to cover cost and yet we see line after line of negative numbers in this report from the School dept. CFO who states

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 2.15.04 PM

We have seen the Manager transfer funds at year’s end to cover shortfalls, why doesn’t the school administration have to do the same and can they do it after the fiscal year has ended? What happens if the estimate of breaking even ends up in a shortfall?

This again indicates to me that we are running this city on a shoestring and sooner or later will have to answer for that. I assume people (taxpayers / homeowners / business owners) would rather accept a 2.5% property tax increase year after year than have to deal with a 1.25% this year but a 7.5% or 8% next year.

Most contracts were settled with a 3% salary increase, health insurance is going up and there is still in my view an $7.8 Million dollar question hanging over the city regarding school transportation.

Why are we waiting to raise the property taxes 2.5%? We all heard the concerns when UMass took $321,000 of taxable property off the books. The administration and councilor’s cannot continue to keep taxes lower than 2.5% or else Lowell taxpayers and businesses will be facing a 7% or 8% tax increase within 2 years.

Paying old Political Debts?

Is Mayor Kennedy that interested in LHS and the School System in general or is there some type of old political score to settle with Brian Martin?? Is Kennedy setting things up for the current Supt. to not renew Martin’s contract ? LHS has had a tough year with racial issues and Lowell political people love the chance to get political payback. Brian Martins been around a long time and has many political detractors. on this week’s school committee agenda:

5. 2016 / 287 [by Mayor Edward Kennedy]: Request that the Superintendent and the Lowell High School Administration provide a report regarding the number of Lowell High School graduates that have gone on to a 4 year college or a 2 year college over each of the past 5 years. The report should include an analysis that explains why the number of graduates who attend college is low and what action the Lowell High School
Administration is taking to improve the percentage.

6. 2016 / 288 [by Mayor Edward Kennedy]: Request that the Superintendent and the Lowell High School Administration assess the current curriculum and course offerings at Lowell High School and develop improvements to the curriculum and identify any needs that would have to be incorporated into the design of a new high school facility.

7. 2016 / 289 [by Mayor Edward Kennedy]: Request that the Superintendent and the Lowell High School Administration provide a report that addresses the issues regarding suspensions and expulsions cited in the recent 2014-15 Student Discipline Data Report from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The report should include an analysis why certain suspensions and expulsions are so high at Lowell
High School and what action is being taken to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions.

8. 2016 / 290 [by Mayor Edward Kennedy]: Request that the Superintendent or Lowell High School Headmaster provide an update on the progress being made by the STEM Steering Committee in establishing a STEM curriculum at Lowell High School.

Only so much “Public Information” given to the public

Interesting that the school committee agenda has an item that states – Report of Superintendent’s First Year Goals but the packet which wasn’t published until Friday only has this note:

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So does this item: Response to Connie Martin’s Motions of 05/04/16 and 06/01/16 Regarding Mass Teacher Evaluation Protocol and Annual Principal and Teacher Evaluations.

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If you don’t publish this information to the public when they are public documents it does make one wonder why? Both reports should have been made available in the packet.

Rumors..get your political rumors here!

One thing about the political bubble…even when all seems quite in the city and in the political spectrum rumors fly year round and of course you hear the same ones from 3-4 people and they firmly believe that they know the scoop. These two are causing the most buzz

1) An attempt is underway to force out (again?) Jim Cook from the Lowell Plan, install State Rep.Tom Golden and that will allow Kevin Murphy to stay on another year or two as Manager with Golden looming over him.

2) The reason the women on Barclay Street was allowed to commit a hit and run without being charged with leaving the scene of an accidents while causing property damage and NOT checked for level of sobriety is:

A) She’s a police officers girlfriend
B) She’s related to an Elected Official
C) or she’s related to a police officer and/or the girlfriend of an elected official.

Here’s a sampling of upcoming events – from Henri Marchand

LW

Hi all,

Here’s a sampling of upcoming events.

Goings on in Lowell this weekend
Tomorrow–Lowell Farmers’ Market delivers fresh, local produce and more to JFK Plaza, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tomorrow night–DIY Lowell Community Idea Summit at the Innovation Hub, 110 Canal Street, 6:30 p.m.
Taking the stage at the Lowell Summer Music Series this weekend–Los Lobos on Thursday; Brett Dennen on Friday and Colin Hay on Saturday.
LifeTeen Conference at the Tsongas Center—July 15-17, expect increased vehicle traffic to the Tsongas Center (food for this event is being provided by University dining)
Lowell Walks—This Saturday’s topic: Upper Merrimack Street with Yun-Ju Choi . Walk begins at 10 a.m. at the National Park Visitor Center on Market Street

More to enjoy this month
The Lowell Spinners return for a 3 day home stand next Monday-Wednesday
Lowell Summer Music Series Free Fun for Kids continues July 20 & 21, beginning at 10 a.m. at Boardinghouse Park
Lowell Walks for July 23–Jason Strunk on Major Downtown Fires
Lowell Folk Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary July 29-31!

Looking ahead to August, it’s Friday Nights August 12 at Lucy Larcom Park and the 20th annual Southeast Asian Water Festival on August 20 along the Vandenberg Esplanade

Visit the Tsongas Center and Lowell Memorial Auditorium web sites for their schedule of performances, sports events and conferences.

For current information on Lowell’s incredible variety of events—arts, culture, sports and more—check out the City of Lowell Events Calendar and #Lowell-THERE’S A LOT TO like web site.

Additional information can be found on the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau web site.

Lowell–THERE’S A LOT TO like all summer!

Henri

Sutter represents fighting spirit of Perkins residents

Perkins

Ralph Sutter embodies the never give up spirit of the residents of the Perkins loft buildings. While he hasn’t convinced me totally that Ma General Law Chap 79A applies he certainly shows his passion and fight. While I feel badly for the residents and appreciate their anger and the love they have shown for the city, I also understand UMass Lowell’s desire to expand and still think the university is doing all it can for the residents who are being forced out.

Ralph is a great spokesman for the Perkins residents and he hasn’t said if they have hired Legal council to assist them, I wish them luck in receiving all that is legally due them and hope they find another residence in Lowell and are able to stay in the city. Lowell needs passionate people like Ralph staying involved.

Here are Ralph’s replies to my post about Mass Law Chap. 79a not in my view applicable.

It seems as though UMass thinks differently about this transaction not falling under 79A, as does the Dept. of Housing’s Relocation Bureau. 79A does not just pertain to acquisitions via eminent domain, it simply has an added section for public entities that utilize eminent domain to acquire a property.
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Per Section 1. The following terms as used in this chapter shall, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context, have the following meanings:

”Acquisition”, the taking of real property by eminent domain, negotiated sale, or other means, by or for any public agency, or by any person or agency authorized to take by eminent domain, or by a corporation established under the provisions of chapter one hundred and twenty-one A……

Per Section 2. No acquisition, rehabilitation, demolition, or other improvement which shall involve the displacement of occupants of dwelling units or business units shall be made unless and until the bureau has qualified a relocation advisory agency to give relocation assistance to the occupants to be displaced. Any agency, public or private, may be qualified by the bureau to act as a relocation agency until such time as the bureau may, on stated grounds, withdraw qualifications; or the bureau may qualify any agency, public or private, proposed by a displacing agency to act as a relocation agency with respect to particular acquisitions. The bureau may qualify a displacing agency to act as the relocation agency with respect to particular acquisitions.

Per Section 3. Any public agency, or any person authorized to take by eminent domain, including corporations established under the provisions of chapter one hundred and twenty-one A, shall provide relocation assistance and payments under this act upon undertaking a project which results in displacement of occupants by the acquisition of real property or by the issuing of a written order to vacate for purposes of rehabilitation, demolition, or other improvement.
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In other words, Section 3 is only there to make sure that public entities that use public domain to acquire buildings ALSO need to abide to Chapter 79A. Any individual, corporation, agency or public entity needs to abide to 79A.

Lastly:
27.06: Relocation Payments to Displaced Residents

(1) Payments for Actual Reasonable Moving and Related Expenses: Legal occupants displaced from residences are entitled to payment of actual moving expenses. These expenses shall be determined in the manner prescribed by federal regulations appearing at 49 CFR 24.301 and 24.302, (as amended and as they may be amended), and guidelines issued by the Bureau. A claim for a payment for actual moving expenses from a dwelling shall be supported by a receipted bill or other reliable written documentation of expenses incurred. Pursuant to an advance written request, the agency may at its discretion pay the mover directly. A displaced person who moves temporarily may claim payment for actual moving expenses at the time of the temporary move.

(2) Multiple Occupants of One Dwelling Unit. If two or more displaced legal occupants of a housing unit move to separate replacement dwellings, each legal occupant is entitled to a reasonable prorated share, as determined by the relocation advisory agency, of the relocation payment which would have been made if the occupants had moved together to a comparable replacement dwelling, provided that if two or more occupants legally maintained separate households within the same dwelling, each separate household is entitled to separate relocation payments.

(3) Replacement Housing Payments. If they qualify, displaced homeowners and tenants shall be

eligible for additional payments for costs relative to obtaining replacement housing. These

payments shall be determined in the Manner prescribed by federal regulations at 49 CFR 24.401,

24.402, 24.403, and 24.404 (as amended and as they may be amended).
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In short, UMass is most certainly responsible…and is currently falling short with their relocation packages. Especially when you look at the last federal regulations.

So you may wish to retract the title of your last post (respectfully) as Chapter 79A (I never mentioned 79) definitely does pertain to UMass in this particular situation.

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 79A requires that assistance and benefits be provided to displaced residents and businesses as a result of a real estate acquisition by a public or private entity (collectively, Displacing Entities) using public funds in a project.