Sunday Notes July 31st 2016 – Accuracy of School Fiscal Reporting questionable

Creative Bookkeeping practices combined with lack of publicly approved School Committee transfers leaves huge credibility questions regarding School Finances

We could no longer trust the information that she was supplying us was accurate

Those might not be the exact words but that was the spirit of the explanation given to me by a school committee member when the School Committee decided to release or not give a new contract to Supt. Chris Scott.

Today this School Committee led by Mayor Kennedy and Bob Hoey want to give the current Superintendent a term defined contract (he has a contract despite what they try to claim playing word games). When I can show that the Superintendent is giving them at best erroneous information or at worse he’s conspiring with his CFO Gary Frisch to provide false information to cover their improper transferring of funds.

WHY isn’t the Mayor or the current School Committee asking these questions using the information below that was provided in their packets or easily found on-line?

I like to think I try in most cases to do my homework and research on issues. Sadly it is becoming clear that most of this current School Committee isn’t bothering to do theirs.

Either they are NOT reading the reports their CFO / Supt. are supplying, they are not comparing reports month over month or they don’t understand the information they are receiving or don’t wish to look into it and just want to deal with things on a meeting by meeting basis.

Are they lazy or uncaring? Are they unwilling to admit that they don’t understand budgeting or processes, including their own School Committee rules? Individually they are all good people, collectively for whatever reason they appear content being led my a manipulative Superintendent and a Mayor more interested in petty political payback than in looking at the poor fiscal practices and incorrect (or outright false) information they are being provided.

I’ve been looking closely at the Fiscal shape of the School Dept. and the lack of transparency around transfers and the arrogance of this Superintendent. Why aren’t the people elected to do so, doing what they were elected to do?

What is becoming more and more clear at least to me is that I may be correct and this Supt. is going to do to Lowell what he did for Winchendon and if that happens Rodney Elliott – Kim Scott – Dave Conway – Kristin Ross Sitcawich and this present school committee will be to blame.

Those 4 who are no loner on the committee (only 1 remains in elected office) chose this man because they wanted ANYONE but LANG. They got their wish. The present committee with the exception so far of Bob Gignac has given this guy a free ride and when this fiscal house of cards collapses they will have only themselves to blame.

I will not accept the excuse that the Supt. is “new” or the CFO is new and doesn’t understand Mass municipal finance laws or doesn’t know School Committee Policy. We are paying these people over $100,000 they damn well better know the rules or learned them before taking taxpayers money!

One of my main concerns is how you can report expenditures in May and June that show higher numbers than the ones you are presenting in July. To highlight this I’m going to focus on 2 line items.

Here’s a Report from the City Auditor dated May 4th 2016 I found in the City Council Packet:

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It shows that SUPT SW (512205) revised budgeted appropriation was $179,512.00 and that $151,557.60 was EXPENDED (spent) In this report the CFO listed as the Asst. Supt. Bus. SW (512204) shows a revised budgeted appropriation was $142,089.00 with $121,540.21 EXPENDED (spent)

Look at this “Fiscal Report” From June 9th in the School Committee Packet provided by the school dept. CFO at the 6/15 meeting paying special attention to the Supt. section:

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The report shows for the SUPT SW revised budgeted was $179,512.00 and in June $165,788.36 EXPENDED and $13,723.64 available.

The Asst. Supt Bus. S/W in June shows revised budgeted was $142,089.00 with $132,694.05 Expended and $9,394.95 available

Now look at these numbers especially under the Supt. Office that were supplied by the CFO & Supt. at the July 20th meeting

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Again I’m NOT a math major or Fiscal guru but how in May does the City Auditor show $151,557.60 was EXPENDED for the SUPT SW and in June the Supt. / CFO show the School Committee a report stating a total of $165,788.36 being Expended but in July show a -$80,000 transfer (with no explanation) and then show only $103,576.81 Expended

Did the School Supt give back $62,000? How does a transfer appear in July for $80,000 when the CFO’s June report clearly shows the available budget remaining was $13,723.64. Remember those June and July numbers came from the same person.

Look at the CFO (presently listed as Asst. Supt.Bus ) in May the Auditor shows the Asst. Supt. SW revised appropriated budget was $142,089.00 with $121,540.21 EXPENDED (spent) and in June the CFO / Supt reported to the School Committee that the revised budgeted salary was $142,089.00 with $132,694.05 Expended it also showed $9,394.95 available.

Then in July it shows a -$40,000 transfer and only $106,636.35 Expended That’s a $26,000 shift HOW? Did he also make a donation back to the City? When you show $,394.95 available how do you transfer $40,000?

When considering that Line item also consider this information:

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If in March it was 95% used how do you transfer $40,000 out of it? and how in May did it show it was only 85.5% expended?

I checked all of the 2016 School Committee meeting Agenda’s and this Transfer the Supt. stated was going to take place NEVER HAPPENED in a public meeting or was voted on by the School Committee. See my Friday Blog post below for all transfers presented to the School Committee between July 2015 and June 2016.

Not only that transfer but the July total of $150,000 in transfers from the SW Supt – Asst. Supt Finance and HR Manager have NEVER BEEN APPROVED by this Mayor and School Committee or brought forth at a public meeting.

This Supt. claimed at the July 20th meeting that the $80,000 was used for Food Service “In-Direct” expenses but if you look at the transfers (VERY FEW) involving Food Service accts. you never see the $80,000 voted on was suppose to come from the Suspense acct. The “Indirect Cost” was another another transfer that I questioned in June.

Food Service

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For the School Supt. to even try to indicate in any way that he doesn’t have to ask about transferring funds or thought that he could transfer ‘on the same page” is insincere at best and dead ass lying at worse since he has asked for transfers in the past. Doesn’t he receive a copy of the School Committee Policy Guide that is published on their School Dept. Website (BUT isn’t up to date)

Where is Bob Hoey? Where is Andy D? Connie? and why aren’t they DEMANDING answers?

Do they NOT read the reports? Do they NOT understand the reports? Do they really give 2 cents about the reports?…Supt. says everything is ok..nothing to see here..keep moving and like sheep being led to the slaughter these elected officials are following in line. SCARY! and very sad for parents and voters who thought these people cared and would pay attention to what’s going on.

As far has I can tell they don’t get it, they don’t understand finances or worse of all, they don’t care!

The School Committee policy manual which is available on-line (But NOT CURRENT) on the School Dept. Web site show a very vague Transfer policy.

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It is at least clear that transfers have to be considered and presented to the School Committee and yet viewing the July 20th meeting it clearly shows a report with $150,000 in Transfers made that have never been posted or approved by the School Committee.

Yet at the July 20th meeting most of the committee sat silently by while Gignac and to a degree Gendron ask about it and all accepted getting blown off without a good solid answer.

I realize Ed Kennedy is more concerned about giving this Supt. a contract and getting political payback against the Manager and Councilor Elliott but to allow these HUGE discrepancies in Expenditures and the lack of communication concerning transfers and reports without calling for a Special FULL School Committee meeting and DEMANDING a full accountability report or even asking for an outside audit, makes me wonder if I along with the City Council were wrong supporting him for Mayor.

Except the TRUTH is, this is RODNEY ELLIOTT’S Superintendent ! and he holds as much or more responsibility for the quagmire developing in the city schools as Ed Kennedy does.

The lack of response and questioning by Andy, Jackie and Bob Hoey is scary since they were elected to protect the system and work with their fellow committee members to bring stability to the system but instead allow this Supt. unrestricted run of the place. Gignac is at least asking questions and to a much lesser degree so are Gendron and Connie but I expect more from her.

To hell with the idiots who claim Connie never wanted this Supt. to begin with, it’s looking like she was 1000% correct and now she should take the gloves off and with Gignac go full tilt to get this house in order BEFORE we start the school year where I fear a BIGGER CRASH may occur!!

How can any of you trust any information when it is clearly not accurate??

The Lowell City Council has a role to play here, the City Auditor works for them. How about requiring a report from the Auditor asking why so many line items can have a negative balance and why without School Committee approval has money been allowed to be transferred from one account to another.

I would DEMAND the Auditor provide a full printout of the expenditure ledger in those 2 specific accounts. The expenditure ledger will show all the entries chronologically.

The Auditor can’t erase something that has happened, so the ledger will get us from point A (0 expended) to point B (May when $151,557.60 was EXPENDED) to Point C (The $165,788 expenditures) to point D (the July expenditure when they are claiming $103,576.81 was Expended.)

Is it true that the City Auditor only cares about the ‘bottom line” as the School Supt. stated and is that what the school dept. is charged by the city $208,416 a year for? Just looking at the cost of the bottom line?

Right now the silence by this School Committee concerning the fiscal accountability of the school dept. is deafening!

The former School Committee gang of 4 may have left you an inexperienced, to hell with fiscal policy and accounting rules Supt. (They IGNORED WINCHENDON for their own Political reasons) but there is NO EXCUSE for the present school committee to allow a Supt. or HIS Chosen CFO to provide the committee and the public with information that is clearly INCORRECT.

Mayor Kennedy and the School Committee should call a “Special Meeting” and DEMAND FULL Accountability Reports and Clarity from the City Auditor and the School Supt and his CFO .

I no longer trust that the information that Supt. Khelfaoui and his CFO Gary Frisch are supplying us is accurate” GN 7/31/2016