School Administration casting bad light on Mayor Kennedy and SC in budget vote fiasco!

I’ve discovered and the Superintendent has admitted in a public meeting that the current School Administration submitted a budget that was never voted on by the School Committee,

It appears that they reduced the Suspense Account by $860,000 without a vote or any documented approval by the School Committee and that they NEVER informed the current or past School Committee of that action.

What’s most frustrating to me, is the way this administration is dismissing my concerns and saying things like I have misconceptions or it’s only a procedural error.

If it’s only a procedural error why wasn’t any School Committee made aware of it for 8 months? Would Mayor Kennedy or current Mayor Samaras allow any City Manager to change any budget line item without a City Council vote and dismiss it as a procedural error?

The Asst Superintendent of Finance sent out a timeline to the finance subcommittee to clarify my so called misconceptions.

Finance Committee March 7 2018 Memo #2

By doing so and trying to dismiss my concerns and calling into question my understanding of the role and responsibilities of a school committee member, it appears to me that the Asst Superintendent is putting former Mayor Kennedy and members of that school committee who supported them in an awkward , potentially damaging political situation.

Mayor Kennedy and members of the former committee having to explain, along with current members including administration supporters Hoey and Decouteaux how they allowed this to happen without that School Committee realizing it during their final 6 months in office?

Were they misled or were they neglectful in the performance of their duties?

In his timeline Mr. Frisch notes – On June 21, 2017– I presented the Budget Discrepancy memo of which I wrote on June 13th and which I made public as an attachment to the School Committee Agenda. The memo notified the School Committee that they would be required to reduce the budget by $869,522, and I provided the example of possibly decreasing the suspense account.

Implying that Mayor Kennedy and Sc member Gendron being current and former city councilors, should have known that the Committee had to have a balanced budget by July 1st? Insinuating that members Hoey, Martin, Gignac and Doherty having voted on many budgets in the past, should have known they needed to vote on a budget before July 1st?

What Mr. Frisch left out was that he didn’t recommend any cuts be made but instead made the following which was in fact supported and voted on by the School Committee based on his recommendation.

It is recommended that School Committee approve the following motion: Directs the Superintendent to request that the City Council approve a budget amendment of $869,522 to increase the school department appropriation to $162,942,846

It also leaves unanswered whether Administration supporters like Kennedy, Gignac, Gendron, Hoey and Decouteaux and the rest of the committee were made aware that a budget could not be submitted that was higher than what the City Council approved? If not why did the Administration neglect to share that information?

In my view, No one did more to lead the fight to keep LHS downtown than Ed Kennedy. I respect all he did and think he has positioned himself to be a viable candidate for State Senate but the Asst. Superintendent in trying to justify his and the administrations actions and dismiss my concerns, instead has in my view put the former Mayor in a very tough politician position regarding his oversight of the budget process.

According to the asst. superintendent in his timeline he states – On June 22, 2017 – Kevin Murphy, Lowell City Manager, wrote an assurance that would provide the Lowell Public School budget with an additional $250,000.

That’s a reference to this memo sent to Mayor Kennedy on Thursday June 22nd.

The Asst Superintendent doesn’t indicate in his timeline if Mayor Kennedy ever shared that information with the rest of the School Committee or just with the Administration.

Thursday June 22nd was the day before Mayor Kennedy called for a Special Meeting of the School Committee to be held on June 28th to have the School Committee vote on the location of Lowell High.

Leaving open the question of why a special meeting wasn’t called to vote on budget reductions either right before or right after that meeting if he knew on June 22nd no additional funding would be coming from the City.

Why after receiving the memo on June 22nd did Mayor Kennedy who had already called a Special Meeting of the School Committee on June 26 to approve teachers contracts not add a budget reduction item to that meeting to this agenda?

Former Mayor Kennedy has been a huge supporter of this Superintendent and his administration Some have speculated that in an effort to continue to support the Superintendent he dropped his support for John Leahy’s bid for Mayor.

It looks to me that the Administration is now putting the former Mayor in a position to have to address these questions along with the former Committee members who supported them.

One question that needs addressing in my mind is. Did any of them know that on June 27th the following occurred per Mr. Frisch?

I sent the City Auditor a budget submittal of $162,073,324. This was the figure that was approved by the City Council in their budget and in your note state

I deliberately sent the lower amount to the auditor in order to setup school accounts with the City to enable purchasing to start 3 days later on July 1, 2017. State law does not permit us to spend more than the budget set by the school committee but we can spend less.

or like the rest of the School Committee myself, current Mayor Samaras and Dominic Lay were all they never informed of what occurred?

In any case my view is that by their actions in trying to dismiss my concerns as misconceptions or procedural errors this Administration has put their biggest supporters in a very bad light and possibly damaged some political futures.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on their website clearly shows the following;

State law: The school committee reviews and approves budgets for public education in the district. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 37) The committee must hold a public hearing on the proposed annual budget. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 38N) The school committee has authority to determine expenditures within the total appropriation voted by the city or town. The city or town appropriating body is authorized to make non-binding monetary recommendations to increase or decrease certain items allocating such appropriations, but it may not limit the school committee’s authority to determine expenditures within the total appropriation. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 34)

While running for this office I posted a couple of different items about defending the role of a School Committee member. Last June 28th I spoke at the School Committee meeting endorsing /supporting their rights and responsibility to sue the city over the location of the High School. I felt they needed to defend their role in policy making. Under Ed Reform the role of a School Committee member has been greatly reduced. I will continue to defend the role of the SCHOOL Committee and continue to ask why a budget was present without a vote and why that was hid and not explained to the School Committee.