Where has the Fiscal concern / accountability been? Part 1 of 3

School Committee members Jackie Doherty and Connie Martin, spoke at the City Council meeting Tuesday Night requesting the Council fund the schools with more money.

Has it stands today, the School Dept. is receiving almost $5,000,000 more in Chapt. 70 funding for the 2017/2018 school year and with the transfer of positions from the schools to the city of 3 resource officers and maintenance they are receiving $100,000 more from the city of Lowell.

The City of Lowell is using $2,000,000 in reserves to run the City operational budget, 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 city is trying to get funding to build or renovate the existing High School at a cost to the taxpayers of Lowell of approx. $130,000,000 now all of a sudden these members have financial concerns? Where have they been?

My concern has been this Committee’s lack of fiscal questioning and follow up with this School Administration over the past two years and if you look at this timeline of events that I’ve been chronicling over the same 2 year period, over the next three days of post, you will understand my concern.

This was the “process” for the 2016/2017 budget

March 2 2016 -2016 / 90 [by Robert Gignac]: Request the Superintendent provide a timeline for the FY17 budget deliberations & presentations.

2016 / 93 [by Steve Gendron]: Request the Superintendent to initiate the budget
process for FY17, deliver a draft to the committee by April 1, and work
with the Finance Subcommittee to schedule public information sessions in
April and May.

The Superintendent and then new CFO respond to these request with the following memo

To: Dr. Salah E. Khelfaoui, Superintendent of Schools
From: Gary N. Frisch, School Business Administrator
Date: February 26, 2016
Subject: FY2017 Budget Calendar

The following is the proposed schedule of the FY17 Budget.

Present Budget Calendar Thursday March 24, 2016
Superintendent’s Recommended Budget Thursday April 28, 2016
Budget Hearing Monday May 2, 2016
Budget Adoption Monday May 9, 2016

But the School Committee decided that wasn’t enough time and changed that

This was the New schedule submitted to the Committee and the City Clerk and my comments about how it wasn’t being done in full view of the taxpayers because as we found out the School Dept. could NOT broadcast live from the Rogers School.

Budget Schedule

Interesting to note that all budget hearings for the School Dept budget will be held at the Rogers School and Televised on ch 95 not ch 22 which is the Education channel on Comcast or channel 99 where School Committee meetings are normally viewed.

Not exactly the clearest or most transparent way to keep the parents / taxpayers aware of what’s going on. Why isn’t this airing on Ch 22 or 8 or 99? How many citizens know about ch 95?

Here’s the basic format of the memo

Salah E. Khelfaoui, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools
Tel: 978-674-4324
Fax: 978-937-7609
E-Mail: skhelfaoui@lowell.k12.ma.us

Henry J. Mroz Central Administration Offices 155 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852

To: Michael Geary
From: Dr. Salah E. Khelfaoui Date: March 21, 2016
Ref: Public Session: BUDGET FY 2016-2017

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 * Public Session The Superintendent to present the FY17 recommended budget and have a brief overview 6:30PM Rogers School Room 116/TV Studio

Monday, April 25, 2016 * Public Session Budget Hearing 6:30PM Rogers School Room 116/TV Studio

Monday, May 2, 2016 * Public Session Budget Hearing 6:30PM Rogers School Room 116/TV Studio

Monday, May 9, 2016 * Public Session Budget Adoption 6:30PM Rogers School Room 116/TV Studio

On April 18th I published this on my blog:

The Lowell School Dept. is still unsure apparently how to deal with the space requirement issue or where cuts will need to be made and has a result, doesn’t have a budget ready to present to the School Committee or to the Public.

They have cancelled this Wednesday’s Budget Meeting moving the initial presentation to next Monday April 25th at 7:15 and the public sessions to May 4th and May 9th.

See attached revised Schedule!

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 10.30.16 AM

Monday’s Meeting will now be at 6:30 but the May 2nd meeting has been moved (according to the above) to May 4th !

Had to change that again on April 20th:

The following is the latest schedule for the Lowell School Dept / School Committee Budget hearings

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 12.59.30 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 12.59.04 PM

This Committee allowed the budget schedule to change without expressing any concern about the process or the fact that is was largely done out of the view of the taxpayers. Where is the accountability?

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