Many of the current City Councilors ran on a Public Safety or Economic Development platform. Neither has been accomplished with a noted rise in violence and more businesses closing and leaving than opening in Lowell.
Tonight the current Lowell City Council could lay the foundation for next year’s Council Candidate’s by giving them this platform : Fiscal Responsibility
In 1991 when Chapt. 17 was enacted for Lowell, one of the conditions was the creation of a finance advisory board another was that Lowell had to keep a % of the budget in a reserve fund and that if any amount of this fund was used, it had to be paid back by the end of the following fiscal year. That ended up being approx. $4.2 million dollars. That amount has been carried over every year in the City Budget since the mid-1990’s.
Last year facing a shortfall in Net School Spending, City Manager Lynch with City Council approval used $2,000,000 (Two Million dollars) from the Chap 17 account to bridge the shortfall knowing and stating then, that the City could use the Free Cash to pay back that amount.
Tonight at 5:00 the City Council Finance Sub-Committee will meet to spend 30 minutes reviewing whether they think Chap 17 a Fiscal Safety Net in place for over 20 Years should be eliminated.
During the regular City Council meeting beginning at 6:30 There is NO Agenda Item on the Regular Council Agenda to take a full Council Vote to Eliminate Chapt 17, so it would be an Illegal Vote if it was taken tonight since it is not on the Agenda.
However there is a City Manager motion to spend the “Free Cash” from last year, NOT to pay back the two million required by law but to use some for more Net School spending, some to pay the snow and ice deficit and the remainder to create a new Reserve for Capital Improvements.
Even if they don’t vote tonight on Chap/ 17, by voting to spend the “Free Cash” they are leaving Lowell with a potential $2 Million Dollar deficit unless at a future meeting the Council has a whole votes to eliminate a safeguard that saved us in 2006/2007 from having to come under State Control because another Council and Manager blew all our fiscal reserves.
If I am a potential City Council Candidate, I am closely watching how this Council votes and what it says at BOTH the Finance Sub-Committee and the regular City Council meeting.
If at the Finance Sub-Committee they vote to eliminate this 20 year old Safety net and then at the regular meeting they vote to spend the “Free Cash” then this Council can and should be charged with fiscal irresponsibility and challengers in next years race need to constantly remind the citizens of Lowell that we have 4 current members of this council who supported a Manager who blew through over $17 million dollars in reserves between 2003 – 2006 and now have stripped Lowell of a guaranteed $4.2 Million dollars in reserves.
This reserve clause was put in place by the State in 1992 for the protection of the City and Citizens from self absorbed Managers and Councils who cared more about getting re-elected and keeping their jobs then about protecting the citizens from having the State run the city because they used all its reserves.
We saw it in 1991/1992 again in 2006/2007 how many more times must we see this?
This present Council may say that they are watchful and would not let this Manager use all of the reserves. Fine but even if I believed that my question to them would be this:
Why is this Council willing to risk that future Councils (after these councilors are gone) or future Managers get Lowell in the same fiscal crises we have had in the past by removing this small but important safety net?
We have a small safety net in place, to remove it shows Fiscal Irresponsibility
If a challenger runs on a platform of Fiscal Responsibility then they will have this vote and these actions to use as an example against these current Councilors.
They voted to take away a small safety net for no fiscally sound reason, especially given the documented burning through of reserves in this city’s history.