The Winthrop Town Council narrowly has approved a $6.28 million municipal budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, up 6 percent from the current year’s budget of $5.94 million.

Councilors voted 4-3 earlier this week to approve the budget.

Among the items in the new budget is money to pay for designing a new fire station, a hike in the town’s retirement costs and a number of pay increases for town department heads.

Councilors also approved an $11.22 million school budget, up 4 percent from the current year’s budget of $10.82 million. Winthrop residents will have a chance to vote for or against that school budget Tuesday when they head to the polls for the state primary election.

The biggest hike in the proposed school budget is the $4.2 million line item for regular instruction costs, up more than $170,000 from this year’s instruction costs. The budget includes money for new textbooks, a new Spanish language program and an expansion of the electives now offered to students.

As part of their taxes, residents also will have to pay about $740,000 for miscellaneous costs, including county taxes and membership in the Cobbossee Watershed District.

Under the budget proposed by Town Manager Peter Nielsen, the town is projected to bring in $3.13 million in municipal revenue and $6.21 million in educational revenue.

Nielsen said the state is sharing more revenue with the town this year, and that the town also has been able to collect more in auto excise taxes.

That means local taxpayers will have to cover $3.14 million in town costs and $6.21 million in school costs, as well as county taxes. Nielsen projects the local tax rate to increase by 56 cents from this year’s rate, to $15.84 per $1,000 in valuation. At that rate, a resident with $100,000 of valuation would owe $1,584 in property taxes next fiscal year.

While the councilors approved the school funding measures with little discussion, the municipal budget did encounter some resistance.

Before councilors approved the budget, Councilor Linda Caprara took issue with the $21,307 that has been allocated to increase the salaries of people who head the town’s departments.

Last summer, the council approved raising $25,000 in this budget for the raises, which are on top of the 2 percent pay raises many town employees already get each year. The new pay rates were meant to bring Winthrop’s wages in line with those of other, similarly sized municipalities around the state, according to Nielsen.

But on Monday, Caprara opposed the pay hike. While she supported paying more to two town employees — the directors of the Public Works Department and the Winthrop Ambulance Service — she said the rest were uncalled for.

“These other ones, I feel, are way overboard,” she said. “Ten, 12 percent increases on top of the 2 percent, that’s way overboard. Employees are employees and we value them, but I cannot support this budget.”

Caprara, along with councilors Barbara Buck and Dave Bubier, voted against the proposed municipal budget. Neither Buck nor Bubier voiced their concerns about it.

Caprara also said she worries that the town would be forced to make comparable pay raises every two years, which could add considerably to the tax bills heading to residents.

During a public hearing, resident Betsy Rowe agreed with Caprara that the town’s tax rate is too high.

But two councilors, Priscilla Jenkins and Chairwoman Sarah Fuller, defended the pay raises. Fuller said they would not become a biannual feature of the budget. Jenkins mentioned that the proposed salaries were still below the median for employees in similarly sized communities around the state, and argued against the town being too austere when there is plenty of demand for economic development.

Councilors, who held several hearings on the budget this spring, had no other comments before they voted 4-3 in support of it.

Nielsen originally had proposed that the council approve a down payment on a fire station project, but in the spring councilors ultimately decided against that recommendation. Instead, they have authorized $127,000 for preliminary design work for a new station.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.