Sunday Notes June 12th 2016

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Hell hath no fury like an Editor SCORNED !

Jim Campanini the editor of the SUN does not like it when politicians don’t let hm and the SUN in on EVERYTHING or when they take shots at the SUN. (frankly he hates it more when a big mouth blogger does it, 10 stories and two editorials proved that).

During this week’s BLATHER over a TAX Settlement that wasn’t publicized and that most citizens care very little about, UMASS Chancellor Meehan supposedly stated

Just because either the (city) manager didn’t know about it, or The Sun didn’t know about it, it was always a public document.”

Apparently that ticked off the Editor and so in today’s paper all of a sudden appears an editorial stating the former Congressman should close his campaign account.

Meehan should dissolve his federal campaign account, and he should do it before the 10th anniversary of his congressional departure.

It would solidify both his commitment to the UMass system and his conviction to stick around and make it better for staff, students and taxpayers.

Like a bad marriage going through a NASTY Divorce…guess Campy forgets the good old days.

Article excerpt

The editor of the Lowell (Mass.) Sun, which published a controversial special-section tribute to a former congressman last year that included a questionable advertising arrangement, has reportedly bought the former politician’s home.

Jim Campanini, the Sun’s editor, reportedly bought the home of Martin T. Meehan, The Boston Globe reported in a story today in which it was also speculated Campanini may have gotten it at a discounted price.

“It was the latest turn in an increasingly tangled relationship between the newspaper and the Democrat,” the Globe reported. “The newspaper and Meehan’s staff collaborated to sell ads for the special section, with a share of proceeds benefiting a charity named for Meehan.”

Neither Meehan, the former congressman who is now chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, or Campanini could be contacted for the story, the Globe said. It reported that the transaction occurred Sept. 28.

“According to records filed with the Middlesex North County Registry of Deeds, Campanini purchased Meehan’s 3,000-square-foot house for $585,000,” the paper reported. …

Campy’s attack is nothing new, he turned on former Manager Lynch when Lynch failed to personally inform the Editor he was dating a SUN employee. So just remember these things when reading the coverage of a tax settlement between the city and university.

IT’S ALL BLATHER !

I looked at the Charter and Plan E and I’d like to ask any grandstanding City Councilor to show me were the City Council must be notified of every or for that matter any tax settlement the city reaches? anyone?

“It’s not a bad thing. It’s a devastating thing,” Manager Kevin Murphy said

I’ve admitted I’m not in any way shape or form a municipal finance guru but doesn’t that statement by the Manager worry you? In the June 4th story in the Sun titled City manager miffed over UMass Lowell Perkins purchase, lack of communication we find the following:

The story stated

“City Manager Kevin Murphy and city councilors said the announcement caught them by surprise, coming one week after setting the city’s fiscal year 2017 budget which included $321,000 in annual property taxes generated from Perkins Park.”

The nonprofit university’s purchase will eliminate the tax revenue from the city’s coffers and force the city to make up the difference, quite possibly through higher residential taxes.

“quite possibly through higher residential taxes” REALLY?

Lowell has a total operating budget of $340,931,235 so losing less than 1% and we are told by our City Manager that it is “devastating”? Are we really in that much trouble?

Perkins owners made it very well known the building was for SALE and that many Non-profits and UMASS had been notified. Perkins sent out notifications that the building was for sale. The City NEVER thought, expected , that UMASS LOWELL which is right there would not be interested? Are we expected to believe the Manager or his staff NEVER THOUGHT THIS WOULD OCCUR?

Are we really running this budget and this city so tight, that if ANY Commercial building is sold to a non-profit in the next fiscal year we will be “devastated”?

I’ve talked about the City not following the fiscal practice recommended by the DOR when budgeting

Under sound financial policies, a community strives to generate free cash in an amount equal to three to five percent of its annual budget.

I and others have pointed out that while Lowell has solid reserves, we are beginning to use them for operating expenses.

This week we find out UMASS is contributing $60K in a tax settlement and all of a sudden no on in City Gov’t knew about it? The Manager never had a conversation with the City Lawyer about any PILOT programs? Hannah York when she worked for the City Council never mentioned this? This Manager has been here for a couple years, he had no idea the city was receiving this money? Don’t we hear about Bob Healy and the great financial team the city has? Haven’t we been told about the great communication between the Manager and Council?

Think any grandstand self promoting Councilor will ask this Manager at the public council meeting Tuesday ” What and when did you and your administration know about this tax settlement? No some (especially the current Manager’s “little brother”) will concentrate on beating up the last manager.

Should we be be worried that the Manager’s Office is unaware (supposedly of these MAJOR things)???

I’ve predicted a HUGE TAX increase will be required in the next 1 or 2 years if things aren’t addressed now and it would seem judging by the reaction of the City Manager over losing a piece of property that makes up LESS THAN 1% of your total budget that I just might be onto something.

Why did the Manager OVERREACT? Is it just the politician in him and he did it for show? Hoping to get ULowell to kick in money? (Leave that over-reaction to Rodney, you’re no longer supposed to be the politician) and if he didn’t OVERREACT doesn’t that statement set off any warnings to people about the state of city finance?

What (if anything) am I MISSING?? Part 1

If I hear another person tell us how HARVARD and MIT pay Cambridge so much money and ULOWELL doesn’t I’m going to puke! Harvard and MIT ARE NOT STATE RUN UNIVERSITIES!!! THEY ARE PRIVATE COLLEGES.

It is a HUGE difference, if a jamoke like me can understand that, why can’t others? The STATE is a NON-TAXABLE INSTITUTION…Lowell is part of the state…you don’t tax yourself!

UMASS Lowell is NOT – NOT a Non-Profit or Private Entity…they are part of STATE GOVERNMENT!

Why aren’t people complaining about Lowell General / Circle Health? Look at what they pay for their buildings in Chelmsford and ask why they REFUSE to contribute $100,000 or $200,000 to Lowell!!

State Payment for LAND

In the City budget there is a line item of $199,414 for State Land that money to has nothing to do with a) the ICC building, b) any other ULOWELL building, or c) necessarily just UMass Lowell. It is part of a formula that compensates municipalities for taxes lost on exempt land owned by them. It does not cover buildings, but covers all land (UMass Lowell, state forest and parks, land along state roads, etc.). Even though it is statute and is determined by formula, the legislature rarely funds it as required. This is one of the reasons that the state budget stinks. They come up with these laws – “we should compensate cities for the land we own, we should compensate cities for the special education students they have, we should compensate cities for the burden of charter schools.” Then they partially ignore them while they enact new programs.

This is my new mantra – no new programs until the legislature fully funds current obligations, like reimbursement for school transportation.

What (if anything) am I MISSING?? Part 2

All sorts of headlines and hand wringing over a $60,000 tax settlement and yet crickets when it comes to $7.8 MILLION! This is still in mind a very open and ominous issue that has a HUGE FISCAL IMPACT that everyone seems willing to ignore until either the current SUPT. is gone or until next budget year when he pushes this issue. (Unless a guaranteed 3 year contract from the School Committee silences him)

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

What I don’t get is a conversation I had with a City Councilor who basically said “If the City pays for transportation the School Dept. still doesn’t get anymore money.” HUH??

The STATE LAW is pretty damn clear – TRANSPORTATION IS NOT PART OF NET SCHOOL SPENDING!

LOWELL is MANDATED / REQUIRED / MUST however you want to say it, to spend $183,238,362 on Education in the 2017 Fiscal Year that begins July 1 of this year.

Chapt. 70 Money from the State is approx.$138,588,381(Maybe a little more when the final budget is complete)

City MANDATED MINIMUM contribution is $44,649,981 – The City chooses to break that down into 2 parts.

Cash contribution – $19,856,851 “Chargebacks” – City work for School Items – $24,793,130

The School Departments Operation Budget – The dollar amount required for Salary, benefits, programs, materials, etc. = $158,445,232 broken down into 2 funding sources.

Chapt. 70 State Money – $138,588,381 and the City Of Lowell Direct Cash Contribution – $19,856,851

In the City Budget passed by the Council is 1 Line item for Lowell Public Schools -$158,445,232

How legally could the City NOT have to contribute to required NET School spending if in fact this Superintendent pushed this issue forward? It looks pretty damn clear so I ask again What (if anything) am I MISSING?? This School Supt. is pretty clear about the transportation cost.

I’m sure you will hear what I’ve heard, the City has done it this way for 10 or more years, I don’t doubt that but it doesn’t mean it is correct or to the letter of the Law. FAUX Outrage over not publicizing a $60,000 tax settlement payment to the city and yet not a peep in the Sun over the School Superintendents claim. Then again when Cox was using all the reserves we were told nothing about that either.

Is the City satisfied with gambling that no parents or the UTL will bring a lawsuit and force this issue or is the feeling that until such an event takes place, we don’t have to address it?

It’s NOT MY ISSUE – It is an Issue that Rodney Elliot’s hand picked Supt. of Schools has brought up and it is sitting in the lap of Rodney Elliot’s hand picked City Manager to address or continue to ignore. Yet Rodney, the council and the Sun want to make a huge issue over a tax settlement and bash the former Chancellor and City Manager and ignore this issue.

Maybe the feeling is let a lawsuit happen and we can blame that group, or that union for having to have an 8% or higher Tax increase.

It’s one thing to strut about boasting you have “excess tax capacity” and that you on paper have exceeded NET School spending, it’s another thing to do it when you are not following the letter of the law and paying the cost of school transportation in ADDITION to meeting your Net School spending requirement.

Supt. does help the UTL

IF and I’m only speculating based on my rudimental understanding of Ed Reform / Net. School Spending and contract law but IF Lowell ever got to a Final Fact Finding with the UTL, the apparent fact pointed out by the Supt. of Schools that the City is not paying transportation cost would weigh heavily against the City.

One of the things that is supposedly looked at is your “ability to pay” if you are NOT paying the $7.8 million you are supposed to be paying in transportation cost, it would be very hard to say you can’t afford raises.

You are basically short changing the School Dept. and technically not meeting your net school spending requirements by burying transportation in the school operating budget.

New City Hall Hours

The “New” hours at City Hall begin tomorrow. Some negative people will make cracks about the Manager being able to get an early Tee time by closing at noon on Friday’s. That is absurd! You don’t play golf on Friday, you beat the Beach Traffic!

Monday – Wednesday and Thursday the hours will be 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Tuesday – 8:00 am – 8:00PM

Friday – 8:00 am – NOON

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