WINTHROP — The Town Council voted Wednesday night to send a $10.98 million school spending plan to voters, going against the will of the town’s School Board, which had voted earlier in the evening to approve a spending plan that was closer to $11.14 million.

With the council’s approval, the new, $10.98 million spending plan will go to voters in a couple weeks.

It will be the second budget to be presented to the voters, who rejected a $11.19 million spending plan last month that was a fraction of a percentage lower than the system’s current, $11.2 million budget.

Councilors have pushed the Winthrop School Department to draft a lower budget for much of the spring and asked the department to make changes that don’t affect students.

But School Board members, whose latest spending proposal attempted to make no cuts to student services, expressed confusion and shock after the councilors made the changes. Earlier in the night, the School Board held its own meeting and approved a $11.14 million spending plan that would have consolidated a couple teaching positions, reduced the pay for several administrators, eliminated a pay raise for Superintendent Gary Rosenthal and lowered the amount for the district’s nutrition program, among other savings.

But in Winthrop, the Town Council has the final say over the total amount of school spending. In their own meeting later Wednesday, councilors chose to remove an additional $155,000 from two areas of the proposal that had been approved by the School Board: system administration, and support for students and staff.

“I think we need more of a reduction,” Councilwoman Linda Caprara said. “I’m confident this isn’t hurting any students in terms of programs.”

Even before Caprara finished reading off the changes, Joseph Pietroski, a member of the School Board, registered his objection.

“I’m kind of upset that you would try to pull this off without the School Board’s consultation,” he said. “I think we should have debated this. I don’t think you can say it’s not going to hurt kids and the schools system. We’re at bare bones level, and we’re going to have to cut some things. I can’t believe you’re doing this.”

Councilors did not announce a date when residents will vote on the new spending plan.

The council’s vote on Wednesday night came after several months of debate between town and school officials over how to fund the schools next year, so that the town can begin to recover from a $1.5 million deficit.

That deficit is the result of a budgeting error that was made two years ago, when officials overestimated the amount of state revenue that would be received by the School Department. Since the error was discovered last fall, town and school officials have disagreed about which side was responsible for it.

After imposing a spending freeze this year, the School Department originally hoped to pass an increased spending plan for 2017-2018, maintaining all existing programs and accounting for rising costs such as insurance.

But councilors asked school officials to draft a $10.9 million spending plan earlier this year before eventually softening its stance and agreeing to the $11.19 million proposal that went to voters last month.

That budget was rejected, with some voters complaining that it didn’t cut enough school spending, and others worrying that it was too austere. Ahead of the vote, about 200 residents came to one meeting, many to oppose the elimination of arts and sports programs.

Then, on Wednesday, councilors unanimously voted to approve the reduced $10.98 million spending plan.

On Wednesday, Rosenthal still wasn’t sure how much additional funding the district will receive as a result of the $7.1 billion state budget bill that was signed this week and included a $162 million increase in public education funds. But officials said on Wednesday that those funds will likely be used to help pay off the town’s debts.

On Wednesday, the School Board also agreed to appoint Sarah Landry to replace Keith Morin as principal of Winthrop High School. Morin has accepted a position as an assistant superintendent in Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18. Landry has worked previously as a school administrator in Texas.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 


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