Winchester To Go Forward With Cuts After Failed Override
With the failed $1.44 million override, Winchester faces a $728K budget gap for 2012, which will increase to $1.5 million in 2013 and to $2.5 million by 2014.
It wasn’t the outcome Senior Management, the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee were hoping for. Residents who headed to the polls on Tuesday narrowly voted to defeat the $1.44 million general override, 2,045 to 1,810.
For 2012, Winchester is going to use $1.48 million of free cash, but with the failed override, the town will need to cut the budget by $728,000. That budget gap is expected to grow in 2013 to $1.5 million and to $2.5 million by 2014.
“It’s disappointing,” said Acting Town Manager Mary Ellen Lannon of the failed override. “We put in a lot of work for this three-year plan. But the important thing is, we gave it to the voters and gave them the right to choose.”
The Board of Selectmen, along with Lannon and Assistant Town Manager Mark Twogood, put together a list of items that would need to be cut over the next three years if an override failed. According to Thomas Howley, chair of the Board of Selectmen, there could be reductions in the Police, Department of Public Works personnel and library services over the next three years.
The West Side fire station and Advanced Life Support ambulance will regularly be out of service. The school crossing guard program will most likely be eliminated. Reductions in the Library budget will mean the loss of its book borrowing privileges. The DPW could lose custodians, mechanics and field maintenance personnel and Town Hall services will be cut.
“We now need to go forward with the necessary cuts,” said Selectman Forrest Fontana. “There’s no magic bullet, we can’t pull any rabbit out of a hat in terms of the cuts. We’re just going to have to be as transparent as we can be in terms of what will services will be impacted.”
The schools will also be affected by this decision. The School Department and Superintendent William McAlduff had previously stated that a failed override could force the department to lay off 3.5 teachers in 2012 and nearly 30 over the next three years.
“We’re now going to need to go ahead and make these difficult cuts,” Lannon said. “I’m just a little taken aback that we didn’t get the full support of the community.”
But Fontana is confident that the town will be able to handle these cuts and continue to maintain a sufficient quality of life for the citizens in Winchester.
“This is going to be difficult, but we need everybody to collectively work together to solve these problems,” Fontana said. “We need everyone to be part of the solution and not be divisive.”