WINSLOW — The Town Council voted unanimously at their Monday evening meeting to authorize some town surplus funds to pay for the work needed to start the school renovation project passed by voters in June.

The $136,000 the project management team needs to begin the project to renovate both the high school and the elementary school to absorb the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students who will be displaced when the junior high closes will be returned in full to the town after the town closes on the bond. It would pay for the architect, Stephen Blatt, to get started on more detailed plans, according to Winslow Superintendent Peter Thiboutot.

The resolution elicited discussion from councilors about whether it was more appropriate to first use whatever money might be left in the education surplus and whether the resolution should include amendments detailing a payback date as well as what amount of money the team could borrow.

Councilor Ken Fletcher said he thought the right thing to do would be to have the schools use the money in their surplus, however much it may be, and then go back to the town if they need more money for the work.

Thiboutot said that there is not much money to speak of in their surplus as a lot of unbudgeted costs popped up throughout the school year, including cost for Blatt’s work or extended hours for education technicians or ELL instructors.

“We finished off the year in fumes,” Thiboutot said.

Town Manager Mike Heavener said he also would not recommend that the money come from the education budget as the schools do not have a flexible cash flow. The town does not give the school system their entire budget at the beginning of the year, but rather makes monthly payments.

“If they use their fund balance, it’s a good chance they’re going to start bouncing checks.”

Councilor Ben Twitchell raised concerns about the resolution not including a specific sum of money and wanted to correct it through an amendment.

“We’re not going to write them a blank check,” Twitchell said.

Fletcher proposed that the council add language to the resolution that the money from the town’s surplus would not exceed $136,000 and that the money would have to be returned to the town’s account by Nov. 15 of this year.

Fletcher said if the team needs more than the approved sum, then the team could return to the council so they could re-evaluate.

The amended resolution passed 6-0, with Councilor Patricia West absent.

Thiboutot said the town could expect the invoice for the money some time in July as the team is ready to get started.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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