WINSLOW — The town council will consider two versions of a roughly $21 million municipal and education budget for 2015-16 at its meeting Monday evening.

The council’s $21.3 million proposed budget increases the tax rate 26 cents to $15.76 per $1,000 worth of property to cover a $113,700 increase over last year’s total budget.

It also calls for an $845,000 bond to purchase new public works vehicles and to finance municipal paving projects.

“The property tax rate in Winslow has not changed over the last seven fiscal years despite the fact that over the past few years the state Legislature has reduced revenue sharing, increased the local share of teacher’s retirement and reduced the amount of state aid to education,” Town Manager Michael Heavener noted in a budget summary provided to councilors.

But Councilor Ken Fletcher is proposing a second option that would keep the tax rate flat by reducing the education budget and using more of the town’s cash reserves to offset a property tax increase.

“It’s a stretch,” Fletcher said in an interview Sunday, “but I’m of the opinion right now that people don’t want to pay more taxes.”

Under the council’s proposed budget, education spending is about $14.2 million. Less than half of that budget, $6.5 million, is paid as a local share by Winslow taxpayers. The rest is covered by money from the state. Municipal spending is proposed at $7.1 million, a decrease of about $156,000 from last year, according to budget information from the town office.

Despite the decrease in municipal spending, the proposed budget includes money to hire a new full-time police sergeant, additional weekend police coverage and a part-time tax collector position.

Meanwhile, education spending has increased by about $238,000, but because of cost shifts from the state, Winslow taxpayers will pay about $269,700 towards the education budget, according to council documents.

To limit the impact on property owners, councilors are proposing to use $796,000 from the town’s fund balance to pay down expenses.

Under Fletcher’s alternate proposal, education spending would be reduced by about $96,000 and the town would use about $60,000 more from its fund balance to keep a flat $15.50 property tax.

Fletcher said Sunday that his proposed decrease isn’t the same as a budget cut.

“It’s really not cutting what has been spent before,” Fletcher said. “It is decreasing the increase.”

According to council budget documents, Fletcher’s proposed reduction in education spending would likely result in cuts to funding for pool time, buses and textbooks, which could be an almost $74,900 decrease.

In addition, Fletcher is proposing the town take $856,000 out of the town’s fund balance to keep taxes down.

Although the town has used reserves to reduce taxes over the past few years, Fletcher admitted Sunday that it will become increasingly difficult to continue the practice in the future. The town will soon be in a position where it is down to the minimum fund balance it should maintain, he said.

“We have been able to hold the line, but projecting ahead, it’s going to be really tough from this point on,” Fletcher said.

Both budget options include a proposal to borrow more than $845,000 for new equipment, vehicles and paving. The proposed bond package includes money for a new street sweeper, plow truck, front-end loader with snowplow package and loader snowblower. It also includes funds to rebuild the public works driveway and improve the library parking lot.

The council will have a first reading of the budget at its meeting Monday, followed by a second and final reading at its May 11 meeting.

The school budget will be presented to voters at a June 9 ballot referendum.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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