WINTHROP — Facing a potential $1.2 million budget increase, Winthrop officials have set a workshop schedule to figure out if, and how, they can cut costs.

Town Manager Jeff Kobrock introduced the $17,914,986 budget to the Town Council at its meeting Monday evening. He said the proposal includes about a 10% increase over last year’s budget. At least four workshops to discuss specific areas of the budget will take place before it is voted on by elected officials in June.

Significant increases in the initial budget include $845,509 of new funding for administrative services, $169,861 for leases and $162,810 for ambulance services.

The largest requests for new administrative funding are $447,070 for wage adjustments and $143,173 to account for higher workers’ compensation claims, according to the budget document.

Kobrock said Wednesday that the request for wage increases would be a general allocation that applies to positions throughout the town.

The new ambulance expenses also reflect wage and salary increases for existing staff, with an extra $74,913 proposed for paramedics and an additional $83,787 proposed for regular EMT pay. Kobrock said no new positions are being proposed within the ambulance department.

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Councilor Linda Caprara, who is also the town’s finance chairperson, was particularly taken aback by the $1.2 million, or roughly 10%, increase over the previous year and asked about the contributing factors.

Councilor Elizabeth Peters said much of it is likely related to personnel, and Kobrock said the council will be taking a more in-depth look at these increases as they discuss the budget in the coming months.

“Oh we will,” she said. “I understand, but 10%? That’s ridiculous.”

The first workshop will take place April 11 at 6 p.m. and will focus on schools and an overview of the capital improvement plan. Next up, on April 25, officials will go through public safety, public works and recreation requests as well as revenues, according to the schedule.

The May 2 council meeting is listed on this year’s budget schedule with a caveat that “probably no budget items” will come up on the agenda. Workshops will resume May 9 with a discussion of budgets for the cemetery committee, library, town clerk, elections, code enforcement, planning board, board of appeals, general assistance, assessing, finance, central service and miscellaneous expenses. The May 16 workshop will include a review of the capital improvement plan, the budget as a whole and a question and answer period.

Then, on May 20, the town will provide notice and publication of budget adoption, which includes borrowing.

The municipal and school budget is set for adoption during the regularly scheduled June 6 council meeting.

Caprara asked Kobrock if he thought the town had scheduled enough budget meetings, and he said they can have as many as the council would like.

Councilor Barbara Alexander said she was comfortable with the proposed schedule, but that she would be open to scheduling additional meetings if needed.


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