WINTHROP — The Winthrop School Board is expected to make slight changes Wednesday to the proposed $13.7 million school budget, after the Town Council voted it down last week, citing inconsistencies in the information the schools presented.

Town councilors conducted a short discussion last Tuesday on the proposed spending plan. They then voted 4-3 not to approve the school budget.

Town Council Chair Shannon McDonnell cited inconsistencies in the budget over the past few months as her reason for voting against the proposal. Town Councilors Linda Caprara, Aaron White and James Steele voted with McDonnell.

McDonnell said the budget the School Board approved and the budget brought before the Town Council were inconsistent, so she could not vote in good faith to approve it. When those inconsistencies are resolved, she said, she will recommend passing the budget.

Superintendent Jim Hodgkin sits at the wheel of a school bus Sept. 1, 2023, after driving a route for the Winthrop Public Schools. Submitted photo/Kennebec Journal file

“An allocation of $100,000 to student nutrition voted on by the School Board April 24 was not included in the council resolution, affecting the overall sum of the budget,” McDonnell said. “What was posted in the public hearing notice did not reflect a $2,000 increase in adult education. And although Articles 1 through 11 of the cost center summary remained the same, the proposed budget was passed while the school board was waiting for critical information on its transportation department.”

Superintendent Jim Hodgkin shared the news with the School Board and said he had reached out to McDonnell and Town Council Vice Chair Bruce Burns after the vote for direction on moving forward. Hodgkin said he believes the School Board will not have to cut much from the budget, but should come to a consensus on the budget that resolves the inconsistencies.


“One of the things of concern was that at least one of the council members felt like the board wasn’t behind the vote,” Hodgkin said, “and a 3-2 vote on the budget did not look good that it wasn’t unanimous, so I think they wanted us to go back and review that.”

School Board members Ivy Corliss and Monika McLaughlin said they voted against final approval of the proposed budget mainly because they wanted more information on the transportation portion of the spending plan before they could make an educated vote.

The pair requested information regarding the Northeast Charter bus transportation contract and for employee information pertaining to their hours and pay, with the thought that if costs were cut from the transportation portion of the budget, it would not infringe on the academics or instructor portions of the spending plan.

McLaughlin said she and Corliss had concerns and sought more information on the transportation costs, which Hodgkin said could only come from the school district business manager, who was away. McLaughlin said Hodgkin wanted the School Board to approve the budget before members had the information, prompting her and Corliss to vote against it.

Town Council member White said at the council meeting that the school and town are going to have to figure out how to balance the budget in a way that reduces the annual impact on Winthrop residents.

“I don’t think it’s sustainable. It certainly isn’t for this community,” he said. “What we are looking at is around a $15,000 cost per student, and it’s an old model. I think the results that we are getting with the amount of money we are investing into it doesn’t equate to better outcomes. I think in the future, and maybe it’s addressed through the (council), we might have to rethink how we move forward in the next few years.”

The Winthrop School Board’s special meeting to reconsider the school budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Once the board approves a budget, a 10-day public notice is required before it goes to the Town Council.

The budget’s approval by voters will require a special election in July.

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