Dear Dr. Khelfaoui,

In this week’s City Council Packet the Manager has another memo outlining the challenges ahead in fiscal year 2017. He also mentions his committment to education and shares a letter he sent to the Supt. of Schools at the end of February.

Here is a portion of his letter to the City Council

Education has and will continue to be a top priority for this coming fiscal year. Enclosed is a letter sent to the Superintendent of the Lowell Public School System which affirms my Administration’s commitment to increase the direct cash contribution to the schools by $1,000,000, bringing the proposed FY17 appropriation to over $158 million. This amount
includes the Chapter 70 allocation from the Commonwealth, as well a total local cash contribution of $19.9 million, representing a level unprecedented in Lowell’s history.

I expect that this funding will provide the schools with the resources they need to provide a quality education to Lowell’s children.

Below is a copy of his Memo sent to the Supt. of Schools.

February 29, 2016

Dr. Salah Khelfaoui, Superintendent of Schools
Office of the Superintendent
155 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852

Dear Dr. Khelfaoui,

As we enter the third quarter of the fiscal year, I write to update you and the School Committee of the city’s ongoing preparations for the FY2017 budget. As this is your first full year in charge of the district, I thought it may be a worthwhile to review our plans and communicate our current projections for next year’s finances. As you know, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Lowell anticipates that Lowell will exceed the net school spending requirement by over $5.6 million in FY2016 and any additional local contribution is not necessary to continue that trend. However, I come from a family of educators and providing the proper level of funding for the Lowell Public Schools is one of my proudest accomplishments. It is in that spirit that I pledge to continue my commitment to education by continuing to increase the city’s local cash contribution.

The annual operating budget for the city is a process governed by the provisions of Chapter 44 of the Massachusetts General Laws. Chief Financial Officer Conor Baldwin has updated the City’s 5-year financial projections in order to establish general budgetary guidelines and expenditure limitations for the coming year, based on historical revenues. The process for forecasting the coming year’s revenues is fluid in nature and will be continuously updated as we move through the budget season. Lowell’s operating budget is heavily dependent on local aid, a variable that has the potential to change in either direction. Governor Baker submitted his budget proposal in January with a $3.1 million increase to Lowell’s Chapter 70 aid. To solidify my commitment to education, I am proposing an additional $1 million increase in the direct cash contribution to the school department, bringing the total increase to over $4 million for FY2017. The city is therefore proposing, as part of the City Council’s appropriation order, a total of $158,445,232 to fund the school department.

Many assumptions can change as the state budget evolves from the Governor’s recommendation to the final General Appropriations Act. Of course, if the House and/or Senate resolve to increase the Chapter 70 number, that increased revenue will go directly to the schools and increase the appropriation further. Ultimately, a proposed operating budget for the City of Lowell will be presented to the Lowell City Council on or about May 17, 2016. My administration will submit a budget to the City Council that supports council priorities and the general programmatic and operational needs of the residents, while holding the line on taxes and keeping any increase as close to zero as possible.

A particular emphasis has been placed on the goal to evaluate all expenditures with a view of maintaining the strong fiscal position that the City has experienced over the past several years and, ultimately, alleviating the impact on the taxpayers.By state law, the budget must be submitted to the City Council within 170 days after the Council organizes in early January. The projected timeline is detailed in the enclosed memo and projects that the FY2017 budget will be submitted to the City Council in May of 2016.

Sincerely,
Kevin J. Murphy
City Manager

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