WINTHROP – It started with a little entertainment from the town manager, DPW director, school superintendent, fire chief and police chief. The four took to the stage to read the email messages swapped around during the winter snow storms. Everything from the town manager buying lunch for the overworked DPW crews to the school superintendent asking when he can open school.
It served as a good segue Tuesday night as the town council, finance commission and interested citizens listened to the town manager give his budget overview. The biggest blow to the budget came from the impact of four snow storms. Town Manager James McKenna explained that $650,000 was spent to date and only $90,000 budgeted. So far $127,370 will be reimbursed for the first storm and there is potential for more reimbursements.
Moving on to the main budget Finance Commission chair Bob Winn said the budget process for fiscal year 2016 has begun with department head meetings. He expects that by mid-May his commission will make a recommendation to the Town Council and Town Manager. For fiscal year 2015, which ends June 30, the budget was in area of $40.3 million, with $16.9 million going toward the schools.
McKenna explained the significant budget challenges for FY16. First, the snow and ice deficit of about $189,000. Second, health insurance for municipal and school employes has gone up $400,000 or 6.9 percent. Pension costs have gone up 2 percent or $55,000. Departmental budget requests for FY16 are over $1.2 million. Capital purchases will have to be made through the capital stabilization fund. The total request for additional operating expense is $1,905,000. In addition, water rates are expected to go up because of a 12 percent increase in usage. There should be an increase in state aid of about $163,408. Other new revenue from local receipts, etc. should be just over $1 million.
“I have an obligation to submit a balanced budget,” McKenna said. “There is no fat in this budget and no fat in the departmental budgets.”
He noted that the town still does not have a full compliment of DPW, police and fire staff.
McKenna said there will be at least eight major projects during FY16. Public works will be working on the water mains in the Cottage Hill and Pico Beach area. Drainage on Veterans Road and Lewis Lake has to be addressed. There is a plan to develop Miller Field, a re-use plan has to be made for what will become the old high/middle school. There are plans to improve the center business district. The town ferry service will begin in August. The town website and other technology advancements will be made and there is a push to increase public health services in Winthrop.