WINTHROP — Faced with a potential budget increase of $1.2 million, Winthrop officials have established a schedule of workshops to determine if, and how, they can cut costs.
City Manager Jeff Kobrock presented the $17,914,986 budget to city council at its Monday night meeting. He said the proposal includes an increase of around 10% 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 to the original budget include $845,509 in 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 accommodate increased workers’ compensation claims, according to the budget document.
Kobrock said Wednesday that the request for wage increases will be a general allocation that applies to positions across the city.
The new ambulance spending also reflects pay and salary increases for existing staff, with an additional $74,913 proposed for paramedics and an additional $83,787 proposed for regular paramedic pay. Kobrock said no new positions are being offered within the ambulance service.
Councilman Linda Caprara, who is also the city’s finance chair, was particularly surprised by the increase of $1.2 million, or about 10%, over the previous year and asked about the contributing factors.
Councilor Elizabeth Peters said much of it is likely to be staff-related, and Kobrock said the council will consider these increases more thoroughly when discussing the budget in the coming months.
“Oh, we will,” she said. “I understand, but 10%? It’s ridiculous.”
The first workshop will take place on April 11 at 6 p.m. and will focus on schools and an overview of the capital improvement plan. Then, on April 25, officials will review public safety, public works and recreation applications as well as revenue, according to the schedule.
The May 2 council meeting is on this year’s budget calendar with a caveat that “probably no budget items” will be on the agenda. Workshops will resume on May 9 with a discussion of budgets for the Cemetery Committee, Library, City Clerk, Elections, Code Enforcement, Planning Board, Appeals Board, general assistance, evaluation, finance, central service and miscellaneous expenses. The May 16 workshop will include a review of the capital improvement plan, the overall budget, and a question and answer period.
Then, on May 20, the city will provide notice and publication of the adoption of the budget, which includes borrowings.
The municipal and school budget is set for adoption at the regular council meeting on June 6.
Caprara asked Kobrock if he thought the city had scheduled enough budget meetings, and he said they could have as many as the council wanted.
Councilor Barbara Alexander said she was comfortable with the proposed schedule, but would be willing to schedule additional meetings if needed.
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