Sunday Notes May 22nd 2016

Why hasn’t the city’s Balance Sheet or 2015 Free Cash been certified yet?

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 1.29.25 PMCertified

If you look at the above information found on the DOR website you notice that while Lowell had its tax rate approved on 12/21/2015 and submitted its paperwork to the state on 10/29/2015 the State has NOT approved the balance sheet or certified the free cash yet.

Of the 351 City’s and Towns in Mass only 10-12 haven’t been certified and only two Bridgewater and New Bedford are decent size city’s.

The question is why? Looking at cities that are large and compared in many cases to Lowell you clearly see that they have all had their Free cash and balance sheet certified even though ALL except 1 submitted their reports later than Lowell did.

One possible reason is that a city the size of Lowell generally has a “cushion” built into the budget to leave them with a Million or more in free cash. Lowell estimated that their free cash is under $1,000,000 which I am told would set off some concerns in the municipal finance field.

In the above list, Worcester has the lowest “free cash” at slightly over a million dollars. They submitted their reports 2 days before Lowell and had their Free Cash certified in January 2016.

The scarier thought is that the DOR has found Lowell to be NEGATIVE in free cash! That would send all sorts of warnings and endanger the bond ratings. It could also result in the State forcing a Tax increase higher than the proposed 1.5% in this years budget.

Where is the self proclaimed fiscal watchdog? Why hasn’t this questioned been answered better than “DOR is slow and haven’t done it yet” ?

Can you imagine if the previous administration hadn’t had the Free Cash certified 10 months after the end of the previous fiscal year and 6 months since the numbers were submitted to the state? and within weeks of reviewing a new budget?

For that matter can you imagine the newspaper coverage? Then again when the previous State Rep turned Manager was draining the reserves the Sun ignored that. On Dutton St. it seems nowadays they would prefer you concentrate on BB guns than the importance of City Finances and your tax rate.

Did the New School Superintendent contact DOR or trigger an intense review?

Could the delay by the DOR be caused by the School Superintendent?

Supt. Khelfaoui battled the Winchendon town Manager when he was there claiming it was the town side and the Manager that caused the school shortfall. In fact in a meeting I attended he stated he was a “whistleblower” in Winchendon. He claimed he was just pointing out a lack of funding the school system was supposed to receive, you can see that in this story.

The superintendent also alleges the town failed to transfer more than $450,000 owed to the schools from a trust fund earmarked for education. Mr. Khelfaoui said Tuesday Mr. Kreidler’s announcement to selectmen in their meeting Monday night that the state Department of Revenue had reported that the School Department had a $2.6 million deficit is false. He said a DOR official told him Tuesday it had made no such claim.

Then is his first Lowell school budget submitted to this school committee he specifically calls out the city very clearly insinuating a shortfall in funding from the City.

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 fund transportation bringing the total budget to $158.4 million

It is no secret that there is not a “good” relationship between the Manager and Supt., Khelfaoui has heard from the start that the Manager wanted Jay Lang and he has heard since day one his time in Lowell was limited. He is more confident and cocky than most think. Remember his words from January?

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.” Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui

Supt. Khelfaoui has a history of fighting with Town/City Managers, has contacted the DOR in the past and he isn’t shy about demanding money he considers is rightfully “his departments”.

Could he when first looking at the budget have noticed the transportation cost missing from the budget and knowing the 4 people who hired him where no longer around to support him, drop a dime to the DOR and then fire a shot at the Murphy administration in his budget presentation letting them know he is the cause of their DOR headache?

Could Lowell be about to face their largest tax increase wiping out any excess tax levy to straighten out the city and school budget under orders from the DOR?

Shouldn’t City Councilors be asking these questions?

PLAYING THE GREEDY UNION CARD AGAIN

C. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. work with Superintendent of Schools to determine cost of out of district students.

Why is Councilor Elliott still worried about the school budget instead of finding out about the free cash? Oh I forgot his BIG Brother runs the city so turning a blind eye is easy. Let’s look instead at the greedy union whose kids go to school here. Information that was already in the SUN this week.

The district has 36 students of 25 staff members who don’t live in Lowell.

It loses out on roughly $5,000 for each of those students since it has not adopted school choice, according to Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui. Under school choice, sending districts may also pay extra costs for special-education students.

Let’s take it to another extreme, if each of these students cost $13,500 then we are talking about $499,500 out of a $183,000,000.00 School budget.

Why when you were Mayor for two years didn’t you address this then? Why aren’t you asking about a possible $7,000,000.00 transportation deficit?

You were obsessed with driving out Bernie Lynch and now you refuse to lose your obsession with Paul Georges and the teachers union but it appears you should be looking at the City Finances.

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