WINTHROP — The Town Council has rejected a proposal from the town’s School Department that would have allowed about $100,000 in anticipated state revenue to be spent by the School Department this year.

School officials made that proposal at a Town Council meeting on Monday night, after learning in recent weeks that the state will provide $277,000 to the town for education costs.

But the Town Council refused to formally consider the proposal, with several members arguing the town should use all of that $277,000 to help the town recover from a $1.5 million shortfall.

Because the council didn’t agree to the School Department’s proposal, the $277,000 will go into the School Department’s surplus funds, where it will remain for the rest of the fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the $11.1 million school spending proposal that voters approved two weeks ago will stay in effect.

The School Department hoped to use that $100,000 to restore a $67,000 cut to its administrative costs and to fund a new health aide position. It hoped the remainder of the $277,000 could be used to reduce the property tax rate.

But in a public hearing Monday night, just one councilor, Priscilla Jenkins, said she supported the proposal entirely. Jenkins made a motion for the seven-member council to discuss it, but no one seconded her motion.

Another member of the Town Council, Linda Caprara, was particularly adamant in her opposition.

“I’m not inclined to approve this resolution,” she said. “That budget as it stands is what I voted for. … That money should go back into surplus for education.”

Caprara then referred to shortfall that the town is trying to recover from, adding, “We are so much in the hole right now that I can’t even fathom bringing that ($100,00) back out and using it for the current budget.”

But Gary Rosenthal, superintendent of the School Department, argued for the proposal. “An $11 million operation should have nothing less than a full time CEO if it is to be a success,” he said after the meeting.

Rosenthal also questioned the Town Council’s commitment to reducing the tax burden on Winthrop residents, given that officials won’t be able to spend the state revenue until next year. Joseph Pietroski, a member of the school board, made a similar point during the public hearing.

However, Caprara and other councilors contested those arguments, saying that even a little bit more surplus now will help the town’s finances in the long run.

According to the town website, the approved town and school budgets will increase the town’s tax rate from $1,584 per $100,000 of valuation to an estimated $1,706 per $100,000. Local officials will not establish a final tax rate until late August.

Rosenthal made his spending requests after residents approved an $11.1 million school spending plan two weeks ago, in a 465-210 vote. That plan included a $45,836 cut to the Winthrop School Department’s administrative costs.

Some officials have suggested that cut could lead to Rosenthal’s position being reduced from full- to part-time, but after the meeting, Rosenthal said the School Board may be able to move its administrative funds around to prevent that from happening.

Those cuts were passed by the Town Council before the vote, with councilors arguing that Winthrop must contain its costs for the next couple years so that it can recover from a $1.5 million shortfall. Some councilors have suggested that more funding could be approved in future budgets, once the town’s finances are improving.

But school officials have argued against cutting administrative costs, saying that they could affect the quality of the district, even if it’s just a temporary arrangement.

Rosenthal and members of the school board eventually endorsed the $11.1 million school spending proposal that went to voters, because they hoped to spend about a third of the $277,000 in state revenue.

For much of the last year, town and school officials have disagreed about how to fund the local schools following the discovery of a $1.5 million shortfall in the school side of the budget. They have also disagreed about which side was responsible for the error two years earlier that led to the shortfall.

Before approving the $11.1 million school spending plan in July, voters rejected an earlier proposal that was about $250,000 higher.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the amount of the school spending plan that voters approved two weeks ago and the amount the School Board was hoping to restore to its administrative costs. This story was corrected August 8, 2017 at 8:37 a.m.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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