Sunday Notes Feb. 21st 2016

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When MOM doesn’t return your calls!
One thing you will hear over and over between now and November is the need for whoever is the State Representative in the 18th district to be accessible and responsive to the people in the district. Currently State Rep. Rady Mom has gained a negative reputation of being more concerned about responding to Beacon Hill and Beacon Hill insiders than being present and responsive to the people in the highland/ acre district. This hasn’t sat well with the people in the district and especially with some of the people who were strong supporters of his.

That’s one of the reasons Chheth Khim a former supporter of Mom and a community activists who does a lot of free tax and immigration work in the Cupples Square area is running. Dave Ouellette is a longtime hardworking community activist and former challenger, he has heard the same complaints and confirmed he is also running.

When MOM upsets the Neighborhood
Many members of the Cambodian community are reportedly upset with Rep. Mom for going to Cambodia before he was even sworn in has a Representative and meeting with officials of the Communist Party in charge of the country. They feel they worked hard to get their freedom in the US fleeing Communist oppression and that by going there before being sworn in he insulted them.

City Auditor – Qualifications be DAMN?
It has been a real challenge for this City to hire a qualified Auditor, harder than finding a Health and Human Service Director but again we are down to 3 finalist and I’m wondering if the frustration of this Council and their inability to find qualified candidates willing to work for them, will be their excuse to hire someone more for political connections than qualification.

According to the Job Posting for Auditor: ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES include the following. Other duties may be assigned.
Responsible for coordinating and overseeing the maintenance of MUNIS, the central municipal accounting system involved in the control and summarization of the financial transactions and accounts of all municipal departments including the Public Schools Department. Recommend the development, installation and functional supervision of the accounting systems for all departments.

EDUCATION and/or EXPERIENCE
Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, MUNIS experience, Municipal accounting/auditing experience and minimum of (5) five years’ experience required. (Bold mine)

According to the Lowell Sun Column Blog here are the finalist.

— John Linnehan of Lowell. Linnehan has been an accountant at James F. Linnehan & Assoc. since 1975, and is now the sole proprietor. He is a certified public accountant, has a bachelor’s in business administration from UMass Lowell and is the chairman of the city’s Board of Parks. The son of the late James Linnehan, the politically connected lawyer who died in 2009, Linnehan sought the city treasurer’s job twice, both unsuccessfully, during the Bernie Lynch years. Undaunted, Linnehan in 2011 then sought the city clerk’s job, which ultimately went to former city councilor, Michael Geary. There’s no doubt Linnehan tried to use his political connections to land the aforementioned jobs. Seeing the city is getting desperate to hire an auditor, wonder if those political connections will be helpful this time around?

Bryan Perry of North Andover. Perry is a financial analyst at Lawrence General Hospital and serves on the North Andover Board of Assessors. He has a master’s in business administration from Suffolk University.

Sheila Ruth of Georgetown. Ruth is a finance adjunct professor at the Southern New Hampshire University and recently held the same roles at Merrimack College and North Shore Community College. She has a master’s in business administration from Mount Saint Mary College in New York.

I don’t see ANY MUNIS Experience nor ANY candidate with 5 years Municipal accounting/auditing experience there do you? If you look them up on LINKEDiN you see more of their credentials.

Except for John Linnehan who has chosen to keep his profile private not public. Interesting approach for someone who wants to work in the public sector. What’s also of interest is that it says he is now CPA at Stafford, Gaudet & Associates, LLC and was FORMERLY Sole Proprietor John J Linnehan, CPA November 1997 – January 2013 (15 years 3 months)

My understanding is MUNIS isn’t an easily learned system and one has we have seen in Winchendon that if it crashes, can cause a town to get into financial disaster.

The School Dept. alone gets charged over $800,000 for Auditor and MIS chargebacks for the City to put towards reaching their required NET School spending, which includes the cost of the MUNIS Software. Shouldn’t the person in charge of the Auditing Dept. have experience with it? It’s scary enough to know the School Dept. CFO has no MAss municipal experience, are we now going to hire an Auditor with no municipal or Munis experience?

$5 million reasons to watch budget closely
There is a front page story in today’s Sun reminding everyone that the City of Lowell is on pace to the Exceed Net school spending for the second year in a row. At the last Citywide Parent Council meetings we heard about the strides the city has been making in addressing repairs at various Lowell Schools. Councilor Rita Mercier and John Leahy have pushed for facilities being repaired. Councilor Dan Rourke has a motion on this week’s agenda asking the city to create a facility maintenance plan for Lowell Schools. Councilor Jim Leary and John Leahy are former school committee members. There is no doubt that this City Administration and Council is supportive of Lowell schools.

However even they have a limit and parents have to realize that a 3.75% salary increase for the UTL will mean that cuts have to be made.

There are mixed reports circulating in the political / educational bubble involving the Superintendent. You hear from one group that the Supt. is 100% supportive of the UTL raise while today’s political column has him stating the system could face a $5 million dollar deficit if pays what the teachers want.

The other says he’s been actively seeking to form a relationship with the Manager and to address certain concerns, while you also hear that he hadn’t made much of an attempt and that the School Dept is behind in 2017 budget plans.

There are millions of reasons to watch this budget and what cuts are going to be made.

Set up to FAIL!
Mayor Kennedy and this School Committee will be blamed by many for settling the UTL contract at a higher rate than the previous Mayor and School Committee said was affordable and they will be blamed for cuts to personal and programs.

The truth is, this Committee walked into a fiscal and personal mess left behind by the last Mayor and School Committee. That committee refused to make cuts or force the last administration to cut and used one time money to balance the 2015/2016 school budget.

They allowed multiple violations of the existing UTL contract resulting in costing the district $800,000 in grievances. The grievance procedures allowed them to force a halt but they ignored language so clear even a simple guy like me saw a clear violation.

They forced the last Supt. out, the Deputy Supt. of finance out, left behind a severely divided and resentful central office administration, made the UTL contract negotiations personal and hired an inexperienced Supt. who contributed to a financial mess so bad in his former community that the State had to bail them out. Then the four who hired him bailed in one way or another.

This committee may have settled to try and move things along which was dumb but the mess they inherited from the last committee set them up to fail.

Lowell Parents seeking Charter School Seats!
The DESE website Shows many parents have Lowell students on Lowell Charter School waiting list.

Lowell Collegiate Charter School – 9
Lowell Community Charter Public School- 392

You can bet that between the upcoming cuts, the last minute switch to PARCC testing and in my own personal opinion another upcoming search in the next year or so for a school superintendent the waiting list will continue to grow has parents flee a district that will be labeled a level 4 unless major moral and cooperation occurs.

The State website also shows that many School Districts, Greater Lowell Tech and Lowell Collegiate Charter for example are eligible to participate in the CEP program but have not yet signed up.

OPA! from my friend Joe P
Please come out Monday Feb. 22nd to the Athenian Corner restaurant all afternoon/evening (3:00 PM – 10:00 pm) to support the very hardworking LHS Boys Swim Team. A generous portion of your bill will be donated to the team for scholarships and supplies! Plus you’ll get an amazing meal and won’t have to cook on the first day back to school! Thank you!

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