By Cary Shuman
Winthrop residents voted to approve eight of the 10 questions in Tuesday’s Proposition 2 1/2 override election, sending a clear message that they want institutions such as the public library and senior center to remain open and operating at full strength, while also deciding to provide additional funding for the Winthrop schools, police and fire departments, the Department of Public Works, and the Parks and Recreation Department.
The voters also voted yes on the trash collection question, opting to assess an additional $979,073 in real estate and personal property taxes for funding trash collection, in essence maintaining the current system that exists in an ongoing contract with Capitol Waste Services.
The town voted down two measures: hiring a grant writer, and for departmental expenses for the assessors, MIS (Management Information System), and health departments.
A total of 5,921 out of 11,519 eligible voters turned out to cast ballots.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Jenkins applauded the citizens’ vote in favor of the schools, but added he was also pleased that eight of 10 questions passed.
“That’s truly great for the town, and it was pleasantly surprising in this economy,” said Jenkins. “I’m proud of the people of this town. Mr. [Richard] Honan and the people came together to work, share information, and let people know the positive sides of the results of a yes vote. I think that this is a great community, and overall, the voters said, ‘We want to be the best community we can, even under these difficult conditions, and we’re willing to sacrifice.’ That’s why I moved here. I fell in love with the people and the place, not the place and the people, and I think the people have stepped up.”
The affirmative vote for the schools means the department won’t have to make additional cuts in personnel for the next academic year (2009-10) or look to cut other items in the budget to make up for a shortfall in funding.
“Certainly [the school department] receiving a vote from the public that you have an additional $565,000 to help educate the children is a real move in a positive direction,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins said he now can plan on bringing back some personnel who were laid off due to previous (9C) cuts in the school department.
The department will also be able to maintain its music program for the new school year, and two teachers will remain in their positions for the music program at the Gorman/Fort Banks School and the Cummings School.
“That [the music program] is a great victory for the students in the schools and the curriculum,” said Jenkins. “That’s one of the results of this election.”
Jenkins is also hopeful that he will able to fill two adjustment counselor positions and rehire some of the school secretaries and custodians that were laid off in the recent round of cuts. The reading specialist position will also likely be filled for the 2009-10 academic year.
“Most importantly, I don’t see me laying off any additional staff in the upcoming year,” said Jenkins.
The superintendent will be convening the monthly meeting of the school principals today to discuss the outcome of the override, the potential use of stimulus money, and what the priorities are for each school.
Richard Honan, chairman of the Winthrop Cares organization, was pleased with the town’s decisions in Tuesday’s election.
“This vote was for the town and all the volunteers who made it come true,” said Honan. “This election will affect the town for a long time to come – the schools, the businesses, the realtors, and whether people are going to want to move here, or the current residents are going to want to stay here,” said Honan. “I was overwhelmed by the response to our effort. It was the volunteers who really deserve the applause.”
Honan stood near the (middle school) polls for 13 hours on Tuesday. “I smiled and waved and encouraged people, and I drew my energy from the people going in to vote,” said Honan. “I’m proud of the town. I stood at the Belle Isle Bridge Wednesday morning and I thanked the people driving by.”
In a sportsmanlike gesture Tuesday night, Alex Mavrakos and Cindy DiLoreto, leaders of the Citizens for Fair and Balanced Government (CFBG), showed up at Gary’s Restaurant, where the Winthrop Cares members and supporters had gathered for a celebration. “They [Mavrakos and DiLoreto] shook my hand and thanked me for running a good campaign,” said Honan. “We have differences of opinion, but we’re all for the betterment of the town. We go about it in different ways, but I think we have the same goal.”