Road repairs, new school medical staff, and the town’s adult education program are among the items that the Winthrop Town Council will mull on Monday night, when it considers increased budgets for the town and the Winthrop School Department.

After a public hearing, councilors will consider passing a $7.46 million town spending plan, which includes about $350,000 in new funds for road paving and is up 7 percent from this year’s $6.99 million budget.

The meeting Monday night is at 7 p.m. at the town office.

The council will also consider a school spending proposal that could be $11.76 million, which is 6 percent greater than this year’s $11.1 million budget. That figure, $11.76 million, was discussed at a recent Town Council meeting and included in a public notice about Monday’s hearing.

If passed, the school budget proposal would then go to voters in a referendum election on June 12.

But it’s not clear if the school spending proposal going to the council on Monday night will match what’s on the public notice. The Winthrop School Committee didn’t finalize the proposal until last week, and over the weekend, the group’s chairwoman, Virginia Geyer, and vice chairwoman, Kristin Shumway, didn’t immediately respond to requests for confirmation of whether the $11.76 million figure is still accurate.

It’s also unclear how the council will vote on the school budget proposal. During a meeting on May 21, some councilors said they could support that amount, while others suggested it should be reduced.

Given the proposed changes in local and county spending, Winthrop taxpayers could expect their property tax rate to rise by 7.93 percent next year, according to the public notice. That means the owner of a $100,000 property would have to pay $1,850 in property taxes, up $137 from last year.

The council meeting on Monday night follows almost two years of tumult in Winthrop, in which the Town Council and the Winthrop School Committee have clashed over several matters, including school funding, the exchange of public information, and the causes of a $1.5 million shortfall in the school finances.

Town officials have generally argued for the need to contain costs over the next couple years, so that Winthrop can recover from the shortfall.

In recent months, school officials have met with the Town Council several times and said they are trying to draft a budget proposal that can pass on Monday night. But they also have cautioned against making too many cuts, warning they could hurt the district’s performance and reputation.

School Committee members have argued that the impact on local taxes will be lessened by a roughly $400,800 increase in state funding the district is slated to receive next year. That means local taxes would only go up about $230,000 to cover the proposed hike in the school budget. But at one meeting this spring, Shumway noted that the increase in school aid reflects an increased need for funding.

A large part of the proposed spending hike — about $455,000 — would pay for uncontrollable cost increases in the Winthrop School Department, such as for oil, debt repayment and contractual raises.

The proposed budget also would include $100,000 in new funding for two health workers to assist the district’s nurse and $35,410 in negotiated severance payments for outgoing superintendent Gary Rosenthal, according to recent town documents.

Rosenthal, who is resigning effective June 30, will receive a $25,000 payout and up to six months in benefits. He will be replaced by Cornelia “Connie” Brown, a former superintendent in the Augusta School Department who will lead the Winthrop schools on a temporary basis.

Some employees have accused Rosenthal of creating a hostile work environment, and the ensuing dispute has exacerbated the ongoing tensions between the Town Council and School Committee.

The School Committee has investigated those complaints, said they don’t warrant any disciplinary action, and continued to support Rosenthal. In the past, they’ve also criticized the manner in which the Town Council has requested public budget information from Rosenthal, accusing council members of harassment.

But in April, the Town Council held a vote of no confidence in the School Committee, in part because of the legal liability that they say was created by the complaints against Rosenthal. At the time of that vote and more recently, councilors also have expressed frustration with how hard it’s been to get public budget information from the Winthrop School Department.

Sarah Fuller, chairwoman of the Town Council, said the greatest increase in the proposed municipal budget is about $350,000 for road repaving. While that amount sounds large, she said that repaving costs roughly $70,000 per mile, so it requires a steep investment to make just a little bit of progress. She also said it’s been several years since the town has repaved its roads, so it has fallen behind on the work.

“It’s a pretty tight municipal budget, aside from the paving funds,” she said. “A lot of departments were able to make some reductions. Most of it is necessary stuff.”

Fuller also said she expects the council to discuss whether more funding should be raised for the town’s adult education program. School officials have discussed merging the program with the Maranacook Area Schools, but its supporters have rallied for it to continue in Winthrop.

Under the latest school budget proposal, the program would receive $35,000 next year, which is up $10,000 from last year. But because of past spending decisions, staff say they would have to drastically scale back the adult education offerings to keep operating at that level. Some members of the Town Council, meanwhile, have expressed strong support for the program.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

Superintendent of Schools Gary Rosenthal speaks during council meeting on May 23, 2017, at Winthrop Town Hall. Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

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