I posted the following on February 5th 2017:
The school budget is a public document!
Interesting to note that the Superintendent submitted a schedule that would have had the budget presented to the School Committee during School Vacation Week!!
Between scheduling so many meetings out of the view of the cameras and then trying to release it during a vacation week, you should no longer wonder why I keep talking about my concern on the way the fiscal functions of the schools are being handled.
Jackie Doherty pointed out that the schedule coincided with vacation week and Bob Gignac when the item came up, submitted new dates. Bob Gignac also pushed for the final meeting to approve the budget be done at the Council Chamber in a televised meeting. So the budget will now be presented at the April 12th meeting and approved in May and BOTH will be televised.
The School Committee meeting notes confirm this:
As it turned out, the Administration ignored the wishes of the School Committee and the April 12th meeting was schedule for the Rogers School even though according to the City Calendar the Council Chambers were empty. Yet no member of the School Committee or the Mayor asked why the vote of the school committee was ignored by the man who works for them.
There is no School Committee meeting next week – Request to either postpone or cancel the School Committee meeting scheduled for April 19th, which falls during April school vacation. Mayor Kennedy made a motion to cancel the regularly scheduled Lowell
School Committee meeting on April 19, 2017; seconded by Mr. Gignac. 6 yeas,
1 absent APPROVED
Which means the next time the School Committee would meet is the scheduled April 26th Finance Subcommittee meeting which would need to be posted.
This is the 2nd year under this administration that the budget wasn’t prepared in time and meetings had to be rescheduled.
This School Committee had NO public statement today on the cancellation or the fact that the “Special Meeting” was called for the Rogers Schools after they voted 6-0 with Gendron Absent, to have that meeting in the City Council chambers.
Can anyone imagine that the Lowell City Council would allow the City Manager to cancel a budget presentation 3-4 hours before the budget presentation is due and NOT have a public comment on it? No matter who the Manager is?
This is at least the third vote that I can show where the Committee votes on something and it isn’t either followed through or it changed and they don’t offer the public any explanation.
This is my frustration with this school committee. The lack of follow up for fiscal matters. The Mayor and Bob Hoey seem more concerned in getting this Supt. a term defined contract even though HE AGREED to this MOU when he was hired than to get a budget presented to the public.
If the #1 duty of a school committee member is to be an advocate for the students, in my view the #2 duty is to be a advocate for the parents and taxpayers who entrust the school system to give their student the best possible education with the funding provided.
The Schools are NOT self funded,the state (and state taxpayers) and city fund the schools and it is the responsibility of the School Committee to oversee the spending and to ask questions and make things as transparent has possible especially on the fiscal front. We are asking the taxpayers of Lowell for an additional $250+ per year to build a new High School, the very least a school committee member can do is to insure the public that all dollars are being spent and utilized wisely and to ask questions and demand accountability from this Administration.
This committee allows the administration to set the agenda and when things are not followed through you never hear them question the Superintendent. The administration has had ample time to put at the very least a basic budget together to present but it is my understanding that they were still asking the city for more funding in the last week even after receiving a letter from the city explaining the increase for the upcoming fiscal year and in the February meeting that set the budget hearings, informed the School Committee of the following:
Chapter 70 State Aid
Assistant Superintendent Frisch/CFO informed the Committee that according to the DESE the Lowell Public Schools net school spending requirement calculation
increased by $6,107,324 from $183,238,362 to $189,345,686 or a 3.3 % increase.
The $6,107,324 increase is made up of a state share component of $4,932,022
(80.75%) and a local share component of $1,175,302 (19.25%). The required local
contribution is paid in two parts: 1) cash and 2) in-kind costs paid by the City on behalf of the Lowell Public Schools
There is no excuse for last night’s cancellation and it is just another in a series of events surrounding fiscal matters that shows the lack of follow up by this committee and why it is time for new members who will not be afraid to ask questions and demand answers in a public televised session not on tape /digital video delay after the fact.