WINTHROP — A $10.98 million school spending proposal was passed by the Town Council this week and is headed to voters on July 25, but not without the objections of school officials and a few members of the Town Council.

The Town Council passed those spending figures on Monday night, after giving preliminary approval to them last week. The figures include a $155,000 cut in administrative costs from a $11.14 million spending proposal that was backed by the School Board.

The new numbers were approved by the Town Council after voters rejected a $11.19 million school spending plan last month.

Councilors agreed to those cuts because they hope that two positions will be eliminated for $80,000 in savings: a curriculum director who also works as an assistant principal, and a health worker position that the department hoped to create this year.

And all but once councilor, Priscilla Jenkins, supported a $75,000 cut to the district’s central office, which could result in Superintendent Gary Rosenthal being reduced to part time.

A referendum vote on the new spending figures will be held on July 25. If it passes, it’s not clear whether the School Board — which opposed the cuts — would implement the changes that councilors are seeking or apply those savings to other parts of the school system.

As town and school officials debated the $10.98 million spending proposal on Monday, several school officials spoke in favor of the positions that could be affected. They defended the curriculum director’s work due to the ever changing testing standards imposed on Maine public schools, which they said can be difficult for individual teachers to keep up with.

Kristin Shumway, a member of the School Board, noted that the Winthrop School District does not have an assistant superintendent or individual department heads, as some other districts do.

And Virginia Geyer, chairwoman of the School Board, told the Town Council that it would be hard to run the district with a superintendent working a quarter of his current hours.

“I’m starting to think that we will descend into mediocrity,” Geyer said.

Several councilors, though, said that School Department can’t afford to fund those positions in the coming year because of financial challenges facing the town, most notably a $1.5 million shortfall that resulted from a budgeting error two years ago.

“I’ve wanted to see some positions gone or eliminated or reduced,” said Councilor Linda Caprara, who proposed the $155,000 reduction last week. “I had discussions with the school board about it during the budget process.”

Last week, two councilors, Jenkins and Rita Moran, said they didn’t know what was contained in the spending figures that Caprara proposed, and this week, they switched their votes on some of the spending reductions.

“I had no idea we were voting on numbers that were not the numbers the (School Board approved),” Moran said last week. “You have no idea the angry messages I have been getting. … I am embarrassed and uncomfortable with the fact that I participated in a public hearing and then we voted on numbers other than what people had public input on.”

This week, Jenkins opposed the $75,000 cut to the district’s central office. Both she and Moran opposed the $80,000 cut meant for the two other positions,

A majority of council members supported both the elimination of the curriculum director and health worker, and the reduction of the superintendent’s hours.

Councilor Linda MacDonald said the cuts are meant to be temporary and could be restored in a year.

“It’s not that we’re trying … to take anything away (permanently),” she said. “We’re just trying to make-do with what we’ve got.”

The debate Monday night was a continuation of one that’s been happening all spring. It’s been the all the more heated because of a $1.5 million shortfall facing the town.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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