Council Fall Forum Holds No Surprises

At the Town Council Fall Forum meeting on Tuesday, November 19, Town Manager Austin Faison shared a slideshow presentation focusing on four key areas: a summary of the past year, the state of the town’s finances, next year’s budget, and updates from town departments.

-Reflection on Past Year

The town’s growth over the past 12 months can be assessed through several lenses, including the new budget process, the turnover on the Town Council, the development of the Center Business District, new internal processes, the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Action Grant, and increased transparency.

Faison outlined his attempts to modernize the Town’s online presence, improve transparency of town functions and more effectively gather data to inform decision-making. His vision included the adoption of OpenGov, a budgeting program; ViewPoint, a permit request system; SeeClickFix, a work-order management system; Granicus, an agenda and minutes manager; NextRequest, a public records request system; and CivicPlus, the town’s new website manager.

Win2030 is a 10-year vision for Winthrop, developed with the assistance of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. It is a foundational step for developing a Master Plan.

-Financial State

Fiscal year 2019 was a “banner year for growth”, showing a rise in property values by 11 percent. The increase in property values outweighed the rise in the average annual household tax burden.

-FY21 Budget

Department heads will submit their operating and capital budget requests this month. In January, Town Council will establish goals and objectives and an internal budget document will be created in collaboration with local schools. In March, the Finance Committee will review the budget and public hearings will be held throughout the spring.

Faison hopes to have the budget realized by early spring of 2020, outlining specific allocations for town departments. He also wants to nominate Winthrop for the Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Award. The award is meant to incentivize the creation of high-quality budget documents.

-Department Updates

The Winthrop Veteran Services department served approximately 1,600 veterans and their families and submitted over 100 claims on behalf of clients. The mostly volunteer-run department hosted several veterans events and operated a successful monthly food bank. Over $4 million was distributed to 269 veterans or their families. For the second year in a row, the department received state funding to restore two veterans monuments along the beach.

The Winthrop Public Library & Museum held 319 programs for nearly 5,000 children and 137 programs serving 1,447 teens and adults. Library users rented 8,100 items from its collection, not including the thousands of electronic items that users downloaded to their devices. Visitors to the library reserved meeting rooms a total of 673 times, and used the public computers for 8,320 one-hour sessions. Visitors accessed the library’s wireless network over 40,000 times.

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