By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Town Manager James McKenna presented the FY18 town budget of $59.45 million to the Town Council at the annual Spring Forum on Tuesday night, a 4.8 percent increase over the FY17 budget of $56.71 million.
The manager presented a balanced budget as required by law. The council has 45 days to vote on whether or not to accept the budget and will hold a public hearing on the budget at its May 23 meeting.
“The Winthrop economy is improving but we can’t expect to see results as in past years,” said CFO Michael Perez, adding that the town took more from free cash this year. “The school budget requests also exceeded our recommendation.”
The School Department has a $4.9 percent increase over the FY17 budget.
Superintendent of Schools John Macero acknowledged the schools received a $1million more in the FY18 budget but it is needed. There are increased costs in special education, mainly due to transportation costs, and the school district must offer competitive salaries for its teachers to stay in Winthrop Public Schools.
“We are able to retain teachers. We are also the first district in the state to increase our elementary school hours to 990 a year as we do in middle and high school,” Macero said.
Proposed recommendations to the budget includes $70,000 for marketing the community, cell phone reimbursement for town council members, increase in the town’s legal budget, increases the human resources department, puts $30,000 toward a town planner, regional dispatch fee, a police cruiser, funds to the health department for work against opioid abuse, increased funding for peer recovery coaches, funds for snow and ice removal and there will be six union contracts to be negotiated.
Some capital improvements including new turnout gear for firefighters for $34,000, and a Council on Aging van for $65,140. IT improvements for the town and schools is funded at $150,000; digitizing town records for $25,000; playground resurfacing for $70,000; a gazebo at Ingleside Park for $40,000 and another $40,000 to fund the dog park.
It was acknowledged in the human resources department that one person was serving 600 town employees. Both Macero and McKenna agreed that help was needed.
The current revenue overview shows 62 percent coming from property taxes, 24 percent coming from state aid and 13 percent from other sources.