Schools without Resource Officers? Diminishing Reserves

While everyone waits for the LHS Numbers to come out later today here’s some other numbers to consider.

Listening to Councilor Leary Tuesday night during the Budget hearing 2 things stood out to me.

1) If your school doesn’t have a Police Resource Officer next year or if the LHS staff of Resource Officers is reduced by 3 blame this current School Committee for not checking before they approved the budget. The City had NOT and HAS NOT agreed to pay for the 3 Resource Officers that the school department had paid for but the School Supt. decided to toss back to the City side of the budget. Manager Murphy was clear when asked by Councilor Leary that he will review with the Police Supt. to see if they are needed elsewhere. Just another instance of this School Committee NOT asking enough Fiscal Questions!

2) Councilor Leary implied that the Supt. or Business Manager made it seem like most Massachusetts communities exceed Net School Spending on average by 20% and that Lowell should “strive” to do that.

In reality, if you look at the Dept. of Secondary and Elementary Education Website Site and the 2016 / 2017 NSS Compliance report you see that 70 out of 330 communities don’t exceed by that 20% mark and that many are large URBAN Gateway City’s including Lowell – Fall River – Brockton -Lynn -Worcester – New Bedford – Springfield and Lawrence

See the full report below and check the 2nd tab where I have the 70 communities listed.

20162017NSSperDESE

Taxing Situation

The Average Single Family Tax Bill for Lowell according to the Boston Business Journal with the $$ from the Preliminary LHS Cost added in by me.

Average Single Family Tax Bill – 2017 with Cawley- $4,079
Average Single Family Tax Bill – 2017 with Option 3 – $4,036
Average Single Family Tax Bill – 2017 /$3,788
Average Single Family Tax Bill – 2016 /$3,599
Average Single Family Tax Bill – 2015 / $3,480
Average Single Fam Tax Bill – 2014 / $3,273
Average Single Fam Tax Bill – 2013 / $3,273
Average Single Fam Tax Bill – 2012 / $3,236
Average Single Fam Tax Bill – 2011 / $3,205
Average Single Fam Tax Bill – 2003 /$2,182

Avg. residential tax bill change since 2014 / 6.3%
Avg. residential tax bill change since 2003 / 59.5%

Reserves over the past few years

Heard Connor Baldwin the CFO state to Jim Leary that the current “Reserves” or Rainy Day Account currently is $10.6 Million Dollars.

When I look at past City Budgets that are on-line I can easily find the Reserve Account information for

2014 – $9.9 Million – Stabilization Fund Balances now stand at $9.9 million
2015 – $12 Million – Stabilization Fund Balances now stand at $12 million
2016 – Not Clear – New format – NO CLEAR Statement of Stabilization fund
2017 – $10.6 Million – NO CLEAR Statement of Stabilization fund

We used approx $1.6 Million to fund last year’s budget didn’t we? Instead of raising taxes the City is purposely keeping the budget extremely tight. Look at the history of “Free Cash” the amount of the unused budget the prior year.

The City of Lowell has had its “Free Cash” Certified by the State at $1,333,385 for this fiscal year slightly up over the $942,033 of last year but years ago they budgeted with having some excess available.

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-11-28-03-am

This is why I am concerned about the budget and expenses possibly associated with LHS at Cawley. Once taxes are raised to meet the cost of the High School there is very little room for increases for the operational budgets.

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