Council Gets School Budget Presentation

The Town Council continued talking with department heads during Tuesday night’s meeting, hearing from the officials from school department, town clerk, harbormaster, library, inspectional services and the Larson Rink regarding the upcoming FY20 budget.

So far $64,641,265 is the budget that the town is looking at with $21,155,036 slated for the school department so far.

But there is a difference between the town’s budget for schools and what the school department requested.

Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard said at the meeting that this is her 30th consecutive year as an educator and her department provides education for 1,999 students in grades K-12.

This year, tackling a “needs based” budgeting model, Howard, her principals and staff built their budget from scratch based on what was truly needed to educate all those students. The needs based budgeting figure is $23,027,028 – a difference of $1,871,992 from the town budget.

“The town has to decide how to fund its school,” said Precinct 3 Councilor James Letterie.

The request from the school department is $2.8 million higher than the FY18 budget of two years ago.

In the next few weeks the town council is going to have to decide which school figure it will go with.

During this time they conducted a demographic review, a residency review, a review of charter school and vocational enrollments, contract service agreements, a capital improvement plan, a transportation review and a review of the use of substitutes.

Howard said there is a significant amount of salary funds built in to some grants the schools have.

[A total sum of] “$822,000 is paid out from grants for payroll,” Howard said. “If those grants go away we have no way to pay those teachers.”

She noted that over 2,000 pages were included in the school budget and research. She stressed that importance of competing with other communities.

“It’s time to right-size our budget,” she said.

Also up in the air is the amount of state aid the schools will get through Chapter 70 funds.

With a lower budget, Howard said staff would be impacted and there would be larger classes.

From other departments:

In discussions about the Town Clerk’s budget, Town Clerk Carla Vitale noted that her budget only saw a .2 percent increase and that she had held her position for the past 15 years and now has 70 election workers who help out with elections. She has also worked closely with high school students on voters’ registration. Another area she is focusing on is the archival protection of town documents, including birth and death certificates. She said the total project would cost $445,000 and so far only $46,000 has been spent. She noted that the documents are saved digitally and in archival sleeves.

“We’ll keep chipping away at it,” she said.

In the Harbormaster’s Department, Harbormaster Larry Powers said there were no significant changes in his department, but that going forward he would be looking at acquiring harbor management software and that the town has to look at dredging to be done in the harbor in the next three years.

Winthrop Librarian Diane Wallace, said business is booming at the library, and they are offering programs daily. When she arrived a few years ago there was one summer program.

There are future capital improvement projects for the library including a new roof, windows and carpeting.

Sharon Sicurella of the Inspectional Services Department reported they had issued 437 building permits for the year. She said the department is working on rodent control, a problem property task force and they are looking to start a hoarding task force.

Bob DiMento of the Larson Rink reported that plans for a new locker room may be available this summer. He said the Suffolk University Men’s Club Team and the Elite Hockey Tournament are using the rink. He expects that once new locker rooms are built other teams from around the area will be looking to play or practice in Winthrop.

The Town Council is expected to vote on the budget on June 4.

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