WINTHROP — The Town Council has set a special election later this month to fill the vacancy created by last week’s resignation of councilor James Lattin.

Councilors voted Monday to hold the election on Thursday, March 29. The filing deadline for the election is Thursday, March 15.

The replacement will serve until January 2013, completing Lattin’s term.

Chairman Kevin Cookson noted town officials will soon be working on the annual budget, so it’s important to have a seventh councilor in place. That will eliminate the possibility of 3-3 tie vote among the remaining six, he said.

“As you all know, a tie goes down as a defeat,” Cookson said.

Anticipating the upcoming budget process, School Superintendent Gary Rosenthal made a special presentation to the town council regarding the district’s special education budget.

For the current 2011-12 fiscal year, actual spending on special education is about $175,000 over plan, Rosenthal said. For next year, projected expenses for special education are about $1.1 million, which is $350,000 more than what’s been spent so far and $450,000 more than what was budgeted this year.

Rosenthal also pointed out that while Winthrop’s special needs population, at approximately 14 percent of the overall student body, it is less than the state average. Many special needs students are in kindergarten through third grade, he said.

“Those kids are going to be with us for a long time,” Rosenthal said.

To cover special education budget shortfalls, Rosenthal suggested that Winthrop schools ask for additional funding from the town. Otherwise, the money will have to come out of the general education budget, and that means existing programs will probably need to be cut, he said.

Rosenthal said that federal law mandates the school spend the money on special education.

“We have no option,” he said. “We have to take care of these individuals.”

In other business, the town council heard a presentation regarding Winthrop’s 2011 financial statement from the town’s auditor, who noted that the town’s property tax collection rate, at just under 94 percent, is at a 10-year low; approved new or increased fees for a number of code enforcement and central services; approved the new Village Commercial Zoning District in the Royal Street area; and authorized the acquisition of a new ambulance to replace old equipment.

 

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