By Adam Swift
Town officials held their annual spring forum last week, with Town Manager Tony Marino and new Finance Director Dylan Cook running through the capital plan and budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2024.
â€œOne of the things we worked on and that the council really pushed me to do was to put together a five-year capital plan,â€ said Marino. â€œWeâ€™ve had one in the past, but we wanted to do an all-encompassing capital plan.â€
Marino said the five-year plan breaks down the capital needs for the coming years, as well as the potential funding sources for the projects.
In addition, Marino said the town is working with a new vendor that is doing a facilities needs assessment of the school and town buildings that should be completed by the summer.
â€œOnce we get that, we will be incorporating the list of work they are suggesting,â€ said Marino. While the facilities needs assessment will look at potential projects 25 years out, Marino said they will also be making recommendations for projects that should be undertaken in the next five years.
â€œAlong with that, we are looking at the infrastructure for the utilities department with the water,â€ said Marino. â€œWe are looking at all the water mains, grading them, making sure we know which water mains need to be done, and then we will formulate a capital plan for that.â€
Marino discussed how the town administration is looking to increase the amount of free cash it certifies each year in order to pay for more capital projects.
â€œWe certify $1.2 million to $1.6 million in free cash a year,â€ he said. â€œMy goal long term is to get that number up to around $3 million a year to fund the capital plan.â€
Some of the capital items planned for funding in FY24 include some new crosswalks on Pleasant Street and on Revere Street.
â€œMany residents have asked for additional striping for crosswalks on Revere Street,â€ said Marino. â€œThen we have some ADA compliant crosswalks that are going to go in at Winthrop, Pleasant, and Washington streets.â€
The capital plan also looks ahead to larger capital projects that may be coming down the line, Marino said.
â€œOne, as we all know, that we are working on â€¦ is the new fire station,â€ said Marino. â€œThat could cost upwards of approximately $30 million to $40 million.â€
In addition, Marino noted that Winthrop is a Green Community, which allows the town access to grants through the program.
â€œWe havenâ€™t applied for one since 2017, but we put all the required data that we have to do for our energy usage and we are on track to put an application in this spring,â€ said Marino. â€œWe are going to put in for a $500,000 grant to do some improvements at the schools for rooftop units, as well as at the DPW and the police station.â€
Marino said the overall goal of the capital plan is to show the public the capital needs of the town.
â€œThe goal of this is to show that even though we are not going to do all the work, this is what the capital needs of the town are, so we would be transparent and let everybody know,â€ said Marino. â€œWe may not have the money to do it, but we are identifying things that have to get done, and prioritizing and making a plan to get there.â€
Marino also discussed the operating budget process for FY24, noting that there will be a draft version of the budget to the finance committee by April 13, with the final version of the budget submitted to the Town Council on May 2.
This year, the budget will have all school expenses reflected in the school side of the budget. In past years, costs such as retirement and health insurance costs for school employees have been included in the town side of the budget.
â€œWhat this budget does is it puts those expenses back on the school side so you get an accurate picture of exactly what the school system is costing,â€ said Marino.