By Sue Ellen Woodcock
The FY’18 budget year looks good at this point, but there will be some challenges still to overcome such as union contracts, insurance costs and snow removal.
Monday night the Finance Commission, Town Manager, the Chief Financial Officer and others met to discuss the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
If the governor’s version the FY’18 budget passes on Beacon Hill, Winthrop is slated to receive $6,450,815 in Chapter 70 funds, used for schools, and $4,395,922 for unrestricted government aid.
In FY’17, Winthrop received $6,384,735 in Chapter 70 funds and $4,053,454 in unrestricted government aid.
Winthrop’s total budget for FY17, which ends June 30, is $46.6 million.
“The uptick in local aid comes out to about $20 per student,” said Town Manager James McKenna. “Overall revenue collections are strong and on track.”
He added that he respects the governor and how he has kept his commitment to the communities.
“He consistently supports the cities and towns,” McKenna said. “We are budgeting conservatively. When we see the (department) budgets come in we’ll see what we can address.” McKenna said.
Looking over the next few months areas like union contracts will play a role in the budget. Although there is another year in the teacher’s contract it appears a four percent increase is being looked at. McKenna said he is being more conservative with the other unions. He noted that any increase an employee receives gets taken by an increase in health insurance cost.
McKenna is also looking to the development of the Center Business District as a place for new revenue.
“The center is in need of investment,” McKenna said, noting the coming master plan, and he noted how building permits are close to last years.
“People are investing in their real estate.”
Officials also discussed areas to watch. There is a projected increase of 10 percent in the state’s health care costs. Another area to be looked at is the number of people using their homes for AirBnB room rental. There are about 95 advertisements for Winthrop but many of them have not registered with the town and are therefore not paying related fees and taxes. The town council would also like to hire a Town Planner. There is also the question as to what to do with the old middle school on Pauline Street. More expenses are also anticipated with the Regional Dispatch Center. Right now it is just Winthrop and Revere. Chelsea and Saugus are also being looked at. A new partner would reduce the cost.
“Contracts will have a big impact,” McKenna said. “Other uncertainties are the state budget, state economy and national economy.”