….a few observations

A few items related to a new LHS and tonight’s meeting….

Not only is the City already using $2,000,000 in reserves to fund the budget but because of the OPEB – Other Post Employment Benefits we find out that the city’s liability exceeds its assets. This information is in the 2016 Financial Statement (page 4)

Basic Financial State 2016
The City’s liabilities and deferred inflows of resources exceeded its assets and deferred outflows of resources at the close of 2016 by $29.4 million. The decrease is primarily the result of the recognition of pension and other postemployment liabilities. • Governmental net position decreased by $28.4 million. The decrease is attributable to the $53.8 million increase in the net pension liability, a $13.2 million increase in the other postemployment benefits (OPEB) liability, offset by a net increase in deferred outflows/(inflows) related to pensions of $43.9 million, and the recognition of $2.1 million of capital grants. • Business-type activities experienced a combined $1.2 million decrease in net position.

Compare that information with 2015 when the City’s assets exceeded its liabilities

Basic Finance State 2015
The City’s assets and deferred outflows of resources exceeded its liabilities at the close of 2015 by $2.0 million. The large decrease is the result of the implementation of new GASB Pronouncements. Please see Note 15 for more
information. Governmental net position decreased by $13.7 million. The decrease is attributable to the $11.7 million increase in the other postemployment benefits (OPEB) liability, the use of fund balance to fund the general fund operational budget, depreciation on capital assets exceeding principal payments on longterm debt by $2.5 million, offset by the recognition of $1.7 million of capital grants.

This is another reason why we need to gather all the cost associated with a new or renovated LHS too see what is affordable. Already having liabilities that exceed assets and using reserves to fund the operational budget are all fiscal warning signs. Most of us have bills that exceed what we make and have in the bank but on the city level to go from $2,000,000 positive to $29.4 million in liabilities is concerning.

From a cynical political observers point of view, I think that this School Committee in an election year, with a budget this tight and looking to build a new High School, asking for more funding is political grandstanding and union pandering .

If you’re fortunate enough to get a cost of living raise but your Health cost and excise tax rise can you go to your boss and ask for more money because you’re in a fiscal deficit?

To be clear the State in Chapt. 70 money will be giving Lowell approximately $5,000,000 more than last year if the Senate budget holds. The city decreased their cash contribution by approximately $850,000 not $3,000,000.

A less cynical person or a School Committee candidate might say they are laying the groundwork to show we can’t go for the highest priced school while continuing to move the educational program forward.

This committee hasn’t come out and said that and after spending most of the year putting more effort into getting the Superintendent a 4 year contract with a 10% guaranteed raise instead of promoting the need for a new high school, they may not be the people who can make that argument.

Maybe I’m wrong thinking that the Supt. is going to come out shortly in favor of the downtown. I’m sure he will do so using the argument that we can’t afford to not have funds to maintain all schools and bring SPED programs in-house and expand offerings citywide in the STEM program.

We are going to try to bring an autism school on-line this year. Special Ed cost and transportation is increasing every year and if we bring it in-house its cheaper. Renting and retrofitting the ELKS on Old Ferry Road for $152,000 may seem like an expense but it could end up saving millions in out of district cost if the process is done properly.

The cynical me thinks that he is really going to do so because he got a multi-year contract with guaranteed raises that tie the hands of any new Committee, from the Mayor and present School Committee who want to keep the school downtown.

Another Motion passed but not followed through on!
School Committee Meeting Sept. 7th – Finance Sub-Committee Report

With the end of the fiscal year only a month away, you would think especially after the finding of the outside Auditors and how tight the 2017/2018 budget is that this Committee would have had this process documented by now but I’ve looked through every agenda and NOTHING but the vote has occurred just another example of no taxpayer accountability on this committee.

No Communication from the SUPT?

Interesting to hear School Committeeman Bob Gignac speaking on WCAP last Thursday basically admitting that the Superintendent, Asst. Supt. of Finance and fellow Committeeman Steve Gendron all members of the building committee for the new High School aren’t sharing information or updates with the rest of the School Committee. Prompting Gignac to file this motion on tonight’s agenda: Request the Superintendent provide the School Committee with all information provided to the School Building Committee as it is becomes available.

The City Manager is keeping the entire City Council updated so why isn’t the Superintendent keeping the School Committee updated and why hasn’t a member asked previously? Oh wait to busy getting the Supt. a 4 year contract with a guaranteed 10% raise.

My guess is the building committee updates aren’t the only things this Committee isn’t being updated on. Another motion from Mr. Gignac on this week’s Agenda – Request the Superintendent provide the Facilities Subcommittee with all information related to the new CSA Day School, including the RFP and bids.

I was wondering when and if an RFP was ever issued because the $152,000 for Rent sounded to specific and I wasn’t aware the Elks Club had publicly made the decision to close or move yet and hadn’t seen a School Committee Agenda asking to issue a RFP.

To Little to Late? a motion made on this week’s SC Agenda By Connie Martin]: Request that the Mayor facilitate a joint meeting of the Finance Subcommittees of both the Lowell City Council and the Lowell School Committee for the purpose of discussing the FY18 Budget and the current review of Net School Spending and ongoing contract negotiations.

What ongoing contract talks can both the Council and School Committee be involved with? The Council can’t by statute get directly involved with contracts for anyone EXCEPT the 3 people they have who report to them (Manager-City Auditor – City Clerk) all other contracts are negotiated by the Manager and then brought forth for approval.

There has been zero indication the Manager is willing to reopen the Maintenance of Effort Agreement and the State sets the Net school spending requirement so what is there to discuss? The City budget is set and it includes financing the 2017/2018 school budget for the exact amount the Superintendent presented which apparently includes paying for 3 additional resource officers. The Council cannot add money to any line item by law.

When is it enough? and what’s left to meet on?

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