July 10, 2013

Winthrop school budget includes small drop in spending

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WINTHROP — The $9.9 million budget approved by the school board Wednesday marginally decreases spending while neither increasing taxes nor drawing on the town’s surplus funds.
Whether that will garner it approval by Town Council remains to be seen on Monday.

The Winthrop Public Schools board cut the budget by $83,877 on Wednesday, bringing total reductions for this budget to about $552,000. School spending is set to decrease by $542, and the amount of money to be raised through local property taxes would not change.

Town Council will hold public hearings on the school and municipal budgets at 7 p.m. Monday before voting on them. Once approved by the council, the school budget will go to a public referendum.

In late May, Town Council ordered the school board to cut about $202,000 from the district’s budget to make it tax-neutral without using any town surplus funds.

A school budget referendum originally scheduled for June 11 was postponed to allow time for the changes and for an auditor to determine the amount of money available to the school district.

Winthrop Public Schools later received a boost from the state budget, which included additional state subsidy money that reduced the amount the school board needed to cut.

On Wednesday, the school board approved reducing supplies, equipment and psychological services for special education, maintaining 2012–13 salary scales and reducing the position of Winthrop Middle School principal to 80 percent of full time.

While continuing as principal four days a week, Karen Criss will succeed the retiring Mark Flight as director of adult education.

Superintendent Gary Rosenthal said Criss should be able to work from the middle school most of the time, and when she’s absent, Athletic Director and Dean of Students Dwayne Conway will take on leadership duties.

“We feel like this is a win-win all the way around for our administrators and for our community, both from a financial perspective and a leadership perspective,” Rosenthal said. “We think that it’s a positive, and we’re excited about the move.”

The school board previously rejected Rosenthal’s recommendation to cut Criss to 80 percent, which did not include the adult education change, after several parents spoke at a board meeting to praise Criss and say they value having a full-time principal at the middle school.

Board member Joseph Pietroski asked on Wednesday if the district could move adult education into the middle school building, but Rosenthal said it’s not advisable because of issues with security, the age difference between the middle school and adult students and the class of children with autism that will be moving into one of the empty classrooms.

One resident at the meeting asked if the district made any cuts to athletics following suggestions last year that each sport be evaluated and that middle school students switch to intramural sports.

Conway said each sport was scored according to a rubric that included costs and attendance, and none were cut as a result, but about $10,000 was saved by cutting scrimmages and other expenses.

With conflicting information about whether intramural or competitive sports are better for children, Conway said, they decided to keep middle school sports the way they are.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
smcmillan@mainetoday.com

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