Consolidation Effort – Any means of savings should be considered

With the Winthrop School Committee giving its approval to look at a possible consolidation of services between the School Department and town government, it’s expected that representatives from the Town Manager’s office (or Town Manager James McKenna himself) and the School Department (or Supt. of Schools Steve Jenkins himself) will begin to discuss the proposal that was first brought to the public by Town Council President Jeffrey Turco.

One of the chief objectives of the discussions will be to determine whether consolidating certain overlapping and duplicative services between the schools and the town will save the town money. Turco said the Town of Barnstable has realized $100,000 in savings from its consolidation plan. Admittedly, Barnstable is a much larger school district with many more town employees than Winthrop. It is hard to imagine that Winthrop also could save $100,000 by implementing a consolidation plan similar to Barnstable’s. Still, if there is any avenue by which savings can be realized, it should be pursued.

We also recognize that there is a human factor involved in such an undertaking. Any proposed consolidation has to address the responsibilities of those employees who will be charged with making the plan work successfully. We’re sure that Finance Director Michael Bertino and Schools Business Manager Kevin Meagher will have plenty to do in thinking through the nuts and bolts of the budgetary processes of the town and the schools and determining whether they can be combined.into one office.

On paper, consolidation looks like a good, money-saving idea, but the town and the schools now must put together a plan that works well for both. Turco requested a March 31, 2010, deadline for the town/schools consolidation plan. If the professional cooperation and effort are there (and we expect they will be), residents will be able to see the outline of the plan in about seven weeks.

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