Sunday Notes September 11th 2016

firemen-9-11-never-forget

Salary Increase for Council / School Committee

I’ve stated I’m in favor of raising the stipend for both and in fact after watching both over the past few years closely, I think that an increase is long over-due. However a 66% salary increase for the City Council and a 50% salary increase for the School Committee seems to high all at once in my opinion.

I think they should raise the stipend to $20,000 for the Council and $10,000 for the school committee effective with the 2017 elections then to $25,000 and $15,000 effective with the 2019 elections. In my view that would be easier for the voters and citizens to accept and it doesn’t make it look like just a money grab.

I’m opposed to giving a $10,000 (Approx 66%) raise to the Council just as I was opposed to giving the Asst. Deputy Supt. of schools such a HUGE raise. I know the stipend hasn’t gone up since 2000 but it’s tough to justify a 66% and 50% raise when we are all aware that the school dept. has a $500,000 deficit and a $7.8 million dollar transportation question hanging over the city.

The City budget is so tight that the Election Department stopped funding lunch (sandwiches and chips) to the poll workers beginning with last Tuesday’s election. If I recall correctly lunch used to cost around $10,000-$12,000 dollars. Please don’t tell me it cost that much for I voted stickers, I’m a printer, if you paid that much you got the shaft.

I understand and appreciate the job of a Councilor or School Committee member isn’t just a weekly or bi-weekly meeting, it is sub-committee meetings, neighborhood meetings, constituent phone calls and follow ups , interviews for Supt. or Auditor, Manager etc., appearing on City Life, WCAP, meeting with the SUN or returning a call or email from that pesky Lowell Curmudgeon. It is donating to the multiple great charities and organizations in the city. I could easily make the argument that minimally both the Councilor’s and School Committee members spend 20 hours a week doing in performing their roles.

When I took a Poll in February/Early March on increasing salaries this was the result after 5 days

joined-feb

In the current fiscal environment where we have so much blather when we lose a private resident to a public organization because our city budget is so very very fragile I just think the 10K raise all at once is to high. Bring it in over two election cycles.

Today after 4 days this is the result of my latest poll.

image

So maybe people are saying that $25,000 is fair compensation and don’t mind the 66% and 50% increase.

I don’t buy the argument that the increase will attract more people or “better” candidates. The last increase in 2000 did not attract more or a better crossroads of candidates.

If you aren’t self-employed, work for the state/county/federal government, a social service agency or retired, it is hard to commit the required time and it can negatively affect your business or your ability to serve. Look at how many meetings Steve Gendron misses on the School Committee because of his job conflicts. Look at the make-up of the current council and school committee.

Private business people from Alan K – Mike Lenzi and Corey Belanger will all tell you how hard it is to serve if you are a local businessman and how much it negatively affects your business. Even at the higher salary the time involved and the negativity you receive from groups because of how you voted isn’t worth it to most people.

So maybe $25,000 and $12,000 combined with the Health Insurance is enough to make more people at least think about running but I’m not convinced it brings a better “caliber” and I’m still in favor of bringing this in over two election cycles.

I’ve thought about running for the school committee except I’m out of the city almost every weekday from 7:30 am – 6:00 pm or later and you can never judge the traffic so I’m not sure if I could devote the required time. I’m sure many other people look at it the same way especially if you work in the private sector outside the city. Between the commitment to your full-time job and your commute, you are already away from your family 10 or more hours a day yet neighborhood groups, subcommittees and civic organizations want some of your time on top of regular meetings. Plus the numerous phone calls, emails and text messages from constituents that need addressing.

All of the above is why I think both boards deserve an increase in their stipends but think it should be brought up over a couple of election cycles not all at once.

If you look at some of the other larger cities in Mass, with the increases of $10,000 for the City Council and $6,000 for the School Committee they would be compensated less than Worcester but higher than Springfield and the New Bedford City Council.

Worcester City Council – $29,000
Worcester School Committee – $14,500

Springfield City Council – $19,500
Springfield School Committee – $12,500

New Bedford City Council – $21,000

More Misinformation from School Supt. !!!

If you heard the Supt. of Schools on with Ted Panos the Thursday before Labor Day he called my blog mostly entertainment and insinuated I did not deal in facts. I’ve stated many times my blog is SOLELY MY OPINION but it is ALWAYS based on my understanding of the facts.

I’m not sure exactly what facts he was referring to. His initial transfer request that did NOT break down exactly where the money was being transferred from which included $80,000 of his salary being charged to the Food Service Account, his and his CFO NOT KNOWING there was a limit of Circuit Breaker money you could carry-over or his bringing in a revised transfer request in August to reverse some of the June transfers. Those have been all 100% factually documented.

Teddy being both unfamiliar and not really understanding the issues, allowed him to get away with the cheap shots without follow up questions that would challenge his statements so they just hung there.

So just to be sure I have my facts correct about the end of year transfers, fiscal year end closing and the desire to carry over circuit breaker money and charge portions of the Supt., CFO and HR Manager’s salaries to the Food Service Accounts, I sent a formal public records request to the Supt of Schools and copied the City Solicitor.

On Sep 5, 2016, at 3:30 PM, Gerry <gnutter@comcast.net> wrote:

Gerry Nutter
9 Whitney Ave
Lowell MA. 01850

September 5, 2016

Salah Khelfaoui
Supt. of Schools
Lowell MA School Dept
155 Merrimack St
Lowell Ma. 01852

Dear Supt. Khelfaoui,

Under the Massachusetts Public Records Act ? 66-10 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records including emails that relate to budget transfers conducted in June, end of the year transfers, statements about available funds including correspondence with DESE concerning ability to carryover Circuit breaker money and all matters relating to the closing of the 2015/2016 fiscal year between the Lowell School Dept including yourself, the CFO and finance staff and the City Managers office, Mayor’s Office, City CFO and finance team and City Auditors dept. in the June / Jul/ August timeframe.

If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me if the cost will exceed $50.00

However, I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the end of the year procedures and better understanding of the fiscal shape of the school district.

Since I write a local blog based on FACTS and appear on local radio every Saturday morning from 6:00-10:00 , I want to insure my knowledge and understanding is indeed accurate and factual.

This information is not being sought for commercial purposes and will be shared along with a copy of this request on my Blog and discussed on the radio.

The Supt’s response: The city solicitor copied on this email will respond to your request. Sent from my iPhone

I copied the Solicitor because if you remember when in Winchendon Supt. Khelfoui stonewalled the press in their Public Records request, another FACT he cannot deny!

Excessive’ Charge For Public Info Massachusetts’ Open record orders often hard to enforce
Damien Fisher, News Staff Writer

WINCHENDON After its estimated $5,000 fee to fulfill a public records request was deemed “unreasonable and excessive” by the secretary of state’s office, the Winchendon School District has yet to comply with the state’s laws.

What Exactly is HER job?

Thanks Gerry. I followed up with the school department. Anne Sheehy requested until Friday, September 23rd to provide the documents to the law department for review. We would then require a few more days.

Anne Sheehy, Interim Director, Human Resources is her official title but according to the response above I received from the City Solicitor SHE will be the person in the School Dept putting the response to my request together.

Not the CFO or a finance person ? and not the Supt’s Executive Secretary.

Didn’t know the request had anything to do with HR by since her promotion by the Supt. last year Ann Sheehy has been used has his driver (got her car towed for unpaid ticked for her troubles) been used has his appointment setter and has become his de-facto Chief of Staff.

Taxpayers dollars at work? He has an Executive Secretary, I don’t recall Chris Scott nor Jean Franco having a Chief of Staff. What Exactly is HER job?

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One thought on “Sunday Notes September 11th 2016

  1. Jason Christian

    Wow….great article. Now here’s something to blow your socks off. Tomorrow’s minutes for city council include a survey conducted by a National Group on the Lowell Fire Dept. The cost of the survey is somewhere around 50K. As a firefighter for this city I find it first upsetting I have to find out from the minutes which needed to be downloaded online. Second, the data that was collected is a little suspect. I urge you too take a look at the 39 page (half are grafts) report. What a joke……

    Reply

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