Fiscal Chaos in School Dept ! School Committee shares blame for Fiscal mess!

You may not be aware that the State chapter 70 funding came in at $600,000 less than the Superintendent and Asst. Superintendent based their budget on. If you look at the on-line budget you see this comment

The Chapter 70 Aid uses the Senate budget for the appropriation to the local districts.

You may also not be aware that the Federal Government Title I and Title II educational grants Lowell receives have also been cut by $500,000 and that two weeks before school is set to begin the school department is forced to present layoffs and elimination of positions at this week’s meeting. The fact that no agenda has been posted (by law they can wait until Monday at 6:00 pm) is also a concern.

Giving School Committee members who have a full time job 48 hours to review what appears to be cuts between $600,000 – $1,000,000 to me shows the lack of respect his Administration has for Elected Officials. Then again this Committee has allowed themselves to be treated in this manner.

This School Committee who spent more time giving the administration raises instead of asking fiscal questions or following up on their on motions approved the superintendent’s budget even though the State budget hadn’t been finalized. Why you would approve a budget on money NOT appropriated and why a School Committee would do so without putting that money in a suspense account pending State approval is beyond logic.

One of my main reason’s for running is the lack of fiscal oversight and accountability by this current committee. Followed by their lack of follow-up to votes they have made on motions they have submitted. Never more is there a perfect example of this than the fiscal situation we are now in.

At the June 21st School Committee meeting under New Business the Superintendent had the following information.

They knew they may be in trouble with the budget and wanted to cover themselves by making the City Council take a position either against education or in an election year force the Manager to find the money.

As you can clearly see above, the School Committee approved that recommendation. Since that meeting the City Council has met 3 times (Jul 11th , July 25th and August 8) yet that motion was never submitted by the Superintendent through the Mayor to get it addressed.

The State Budget was signed by the Governor on July 17th and DESE had the information posted on their website a short time later. The School Dept. knew then of the shortfall but no motion was brought for for the July 25th or August 8th meeting. WHY NOT? and why didn’t a current school committee member ask the Mayor to bring it forward?

Even more troubling was what was played out this past Monday at the Finance SubCommittee meeting

Even though the budget was signed July 17th and chap 70 information was posted on the DESE website and that at least one School Committee member had tipped people off about the large deficit, the Asst. Supt. of Finance claimed he wasn’t certain when the State budget was signed and would have to get back to the Committee.

More concerning to me was that School Committee members including the Chair of the Finance subcommittee acted like they also didn’t know that the State budget was approved July 17th until I informed them at the 53:30 minute mark of the meeting and I’m NOT YET an elected member. How come at least one member of the School Committee knew in advance of the large deficit but the Finance subcommittee appeared not to know when the State budget was signed?

At the same subcommittee meeting Mr. Frisch first blamed the City Manager for he and the Superintendent presenting a budget with $600,000 in unappropriated funding. Then Mr. Frisch stated that the School Dept would have been able to finish the year with more excess funds but the budget took a hit when the kindergarten para grant was cut and they had to find and use around $600,000 from the existing budget to pay the Para’s.

Except the School Committee made this vote in September 2016 for more city funding because of the Para grant cut but the Supt. and / or Mayor never followed it through and no present School Committee member asked for an update on the status. Not even the Committee member who made the motion.

It’s another example of this Committee’s pattern of filing motions and then ignoring or following them through.

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-12-46-57-pmscreen-shot-2017-01-16-at-12-47-30-pm

Did the Superintendent have the CFO create a deficit in the Health Insurance line item that was not there in the June report in order to NOT turn money back to the City? Mr. Frisch basically stated that at the subcommittee meeting and the Superintendent didn’t even bother to attend that meeting. The Fiscal end of year report that the school committee received and referenced at that meeting isn’t posted on line for public view. Maybe it will be included in this week’s packet?

In the YTD report issued on June 13th there was NO Deficit listed in the Health Insurance line items. So how did it get to a $600,000 deficit between June and August except through “Creative Accounting”?

Instead of tweeting about what you have on the agenda this week that the School Dept has not yet made available to the public, why doesn’t the committee member instead explain why on multiple occasions they neglected to follow up on motions they sponsored or supported or express outrage over the fiscal situation in the school department especially at the closing of the fiscal year for the second year in a row?

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