Sunday Notes August 14th 2016

Ironic School Committee Policy !

Look at the policy below and you have to wonder if the Supt. or School Committee read or understand their own posted policy.

What happened to “will place before the committee all relevant facts? Did the Committee receive all relevant facts when voting on Transfers or expenditures in June?

Point out where the breakdown of the $243,000 for misc Admin Cost was in the packet? Yes the School Committee was less than stellar approving a transfer without the information but the policy states it is the Supt. who is supposed to supply ALL the required information.

Where in the June 1st or June 15th packets does it show the technology purchases would use almost all the “free cash” for the 2015/2016 school year? Did the Committee know that’s what they were doing?

Is the Supt. purposely making this committee look like they don’t have a fiscal clue?


When is the deadline to stop making adjustments to the 2015/2016 Budget?

According to a longtime Fiscal Municipal expert I contacted

Technically a City/Town or School Dept. has until July 15 to make budget adjustments (which need to be voted by the City Council, Selectman or School Committee). After that, they should not be adjusting the budget.

Although they “close” the books then, they can continue to make adjustment to correct errors after that.

This is typical as the Auditor reviews the books to prepare for the annual outside audit. The Auditor may also accept encumbrances for invoices for goods or services provided before June 30, but received well after year-end.

I attempted to get an answer from the City CFO or City Managers office and the Mass Dept. of Revenue but received no response to emails I sent.

There is a transfer request on this week’s School Committee agenda that would reduce the $80,000 the Supt. charged of his salary to food service, reduce the $40K charge of the CFO’s salary to around $20K and the $30K he charged of the HR Directors Salary to $16K.

I guess he is attempting to correct a very big error.

Combine that error with not knowing the end of year purchasing regulations and not knowing how much Circuit Breaker Money can legally be carried over and you begin to understand my concerns about the fiscal knowledge of this Administration.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 3.24.46 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-12 at 3.35.01 PM

But hey he made us look bad, doesn’t know Circuit breaker rules and has to ask about purchasing processes at years end, so what?

Let’s give him a contract!
Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 3.35.38 PM

What has happened to “Transparency?

I thought this Supt. and Committee was “committed to be open and transparent?

If you go to the Lowell School Department Website and download a copy of the School Committee Packet posted on-line for the June 15th meeting and available to the public you will find items missing.

Here is the current on-line Packet:

Now look at the revised Transfer list under Approve Meeting Minutes of June 1st supplied to the School Committee and submitted to the City

Budget Transfers 06 15 16

On the School Dept Website available to the Public and to City Officials the following 2 transfers are missing:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.44.48 AM

How are Transfers processed?

On the city side, if the transfer remains within the department, and under the same statutory classification (i.e. salaries or ordinary expenses), a transfer request must be signed off by the department head and the CFO. If a transfer is across departments, or between statutory classifications (i.e. from salaries to ordinary expenses), the signed transfer request must be received along with a copy of the Council vote from the Clerk’s office prior to the transfer being recorded.

On the school side, a request would be received from the School Business Administrator and would require the minutes from the School Committee indicating that the request was approved. Once all of this is received, then the transfer would be recorded.

What’s the Deal with the City “paying” for School Busing?

In the 2016/2017 Budget book presented by the Supt. of Schools he points out several times that the City is responsible for Transportation cost and in fact on page 4 shows the following:

Net School

After watching what the Supt. was able to do with the “Free Cash” situation I would dare say he will be watching things closely to make sure the city complies with meeting their NET School spending in 2016/2017. In fact I suspect that any shortfall that arises this year will be tossed at the city to provide funds since in his budget presentation he made several mentions of the busing not being paid by the city.

Based on the Supt.’s submitted budget and page 4 above in order for the City of Lowell to meet their REQUIRED “Net School Spending” for the 2016/2017 fiscal year the City will have to prove an indirect contribution of $31,793,130 since the Supt. deducted the transportation from the cash contribution.

Since Lowell has to add classrooms at a couple of schools, that should help. What makes this really interesting is from 2011 – 2015 the City has never charged In-direct cost higher than

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.16.25 AM

So it will be very interesting to see how things progress and what happens to next year’s school budget or for that matter this year’s school budget. The Supt has set it up so he can tell the Sun and WCAP that he addressed his concerns in the budget yet the current school committee ignored it and never asked for a direct clear explanation.

Did “Circuit Breaker” change put Budget in Jeopardy?

If you listen to the June 1st meeting of the School Committee you hear Connie Martin asking the CFO why in his original Transfer request the School Dept. wasn’t using Circuit Breaker money and he explained and wrote in the original transfer request:

The purpose of this transfer is to pay for the remaining special education costs for 2015-16 from the local expense account in lieu of using the circuit breaker account. Maintaining a balance in excess of $3,090,016 was planned for in the 2016-17 budget.

However, because he nor the Supt. knew that you can only carry-over up to 1 year’s worth of funding when he submitted the revised transfer under “Approval of Minutes from June 1 meeting did the amount expected to carry over for the Circuit Breaker account which was now being reduced by around half a million dollars have any effect on the 2016/2017 budget which the CFO had stated was based on carrying over $3,090,016?