Turco proposes consolidation plan – Town, schools may merge services

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
By Joe Domelowicz

The Winthrop Town Council unanimously approved a proposal by Town Council President Jeffrey Turco that the administrative functions of town government and the Winthrop School Department be consolidated.

The School Committee must also approve the consolidation, and will discuss Turco’s proposal at its meeting tonight (Thursday). Turco also requested a written proposal about the town’s consolidation of services from Town Manager James McKenna and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Jenkins and that it be submitted to the Council and the School Committee no later than March 31, 2010.

Turco said a similar consolidation of services has taken place in the town of Barnstable and that it has resulted in $100,000 in savings in one year.

Turco’s motion followed earlier discussion emanating from the Town Manager’s report that the School Department’s administrative offices be moved from the EB Newton School building to Town Hall.

Tapping off the new business portion of the meeting, Turco turned the gavel over to Council Vice President Linda Calla and made what some are already calling an historic motion.

Councilor James Letterie asked about the March 31 deadline for the combined response, suggesting a September 1 deadline or later.

“I think by putting March 31, 2010, in the proposal keeps the fire under this proposal,” replied Turco. “I spoke with the town manager about trying to get better consolidation of services in the town and that it might bring great cost savings and efficiency. He [McKenna] knows that’s my interest and I think we’re on the same page.”

Councilor Jeanne Maggio expressed strong support for a consolidation of services.

“I am absolutely for this consolidation and I want this to happen,” said Maggio. “I just wonder by putting in a date (of March 31) – there may be a lot of things going on that they may need time to pull this together. I’m just a little uncertain of the date.”

Councilor Russ Sanford voiced his approval, saying consolidation “makes perfect sense.” “I think the timing is right especially if they ended up coming here [moving their offices to Town Hall).”

“I think we need to work it out and work it out right,” said Councilor Nick DelVento. “I don’t think anybody’s against merging. To put a time frame on them [the School Department] would be putting undue constraint on them. I’d really like to see where the next three months go, so everybody is moving in the same direction and we don’t do something down the road that’s going to stop it all.”

McKenna used the metaphor of “marriage” while elaborating on the proposed merger of town government services with the School Department.

“When two parties get married, both have to say, ‘I do,’ and I have not had a conversation with the schools about this at all,” said McKenna. “When you’re asking for a report in two months that presumes an ‘I do,” I can tell you from my perspective that I hope that other side would be willing to go along with whatever results we find in agreement.”

  • Tom McNiff

    Why the Obama-style hurry up and wait sort of regime trying to govern Winthrop? Since when is it wise to ram major changes in administrative structure through? With separate budgets for town and school operations, there would seem to be a number of issues that may present conflict on the way to a merger of the two sectors’ financial operations. One of the major potential issues would seem to be control of a firewall between the two operations’ funding, especially since the School Department has largely autonomous control of its money, a control that leaves many people wondering why school spending is not more accountable to town voters.

    Lawyers who do probate work are forbidden from merging their clients’ funds with their business accounts, so as to prevent accounting difficulties. Perhaps Council President Turco might be willing to explain through the public media how he, as a school committeeman as well as a Council member, can assure that strong controls will be put in place to keep funds within the budgets they are supposed to be for.

    Tom McNiff
    Grandview Avenue
    Winthrop

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