WINTHROP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — School and town officials in Winthrop are trying to deal with a big money problem. Because of a mistake in this year's school budget, the school department is short about $700,000.
The problem, according to Superintendent Gary Rosenthal, happened when $719,000 from the state Department of Education — intended as an annual payment for debt on the high school — was mistakenly listed in the budget as regular revenue.
Rosenthal said that, despite multiple people reviewing the budget before it was approved earlier in the summer, the mistake wasn’t discovered until just a few weeks ago. That was just before the town was due to send out tax bills and too late to make changes.
Rosenthal said he has a plan to defer some payments to the town and a bank, increase revenue from the Medicaid (MaineCare) program for special education, and then institute a budget freeze beginning October 1. The superintendent said he believes that will provide the money needed to cover the gap in the budget.
Winthrop Town Council chair Sarah Fuller said, “I think he has some good ideas where we will find those savings,” but said she and other councilors are skeptical there will be enough savings in the plan to cover the full amount of the hole in the budget.
Fuller said the councilors will want to see some “hard numbers” to have confidence in the superintendent’s plan. To that end, she said the council has asked Rosenthal to meet with them regularly and update them on the progress of savings and other budget measures.
Rosenthal said his goal is to take care of the budget shortfall without having an impact on students and teachers in the classroom.
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