WINCHESTER - With Town Meeting set to resume tonight at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom (residents can watch through WinCAM), members can now take up financial articles including the FY22 budget. Last week, Town Meeting heard from the chairs of the School Committee, Board of Health and Select Board about the state of Winchester.
School Committee Chair Karen Bolognese said her committee initially requested a $58.2M budget, but were approved for $56M in the town manager’s budget. This still represents a four percent increase over FY21.
Budget drivers include personnel contracts valued at $1.65M, plus contract increases, mental health needs (a new Dean of students position) and a new operations coordinator. Non-personnel spending makes up $618,000 of the budget.
Every year, the main issue for the School Committee and superintendent involves enrollment uncertainties. The coming school year features massive unknowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, i.e. what will be bounce back be, how many new students will move into town and how will the McCall Middle School and high school look like with physical distancing guidelines (if those remain in place in the fall).
Bolognese also outlined some projects currently in the pipeline such as the Lynch Elementary School study and construction (a cost-sharing endeavor with the Massachusetts School Building Authority should the town approve a debt-exclusion override in a couple of years), repairs to the Muraco Elementary School (on this year’s Town Meeting warrant) and elevators at the Parkhurst School (as it could be used as swing space when constructions begins at Lynch).
“This has been a year unlike any other,” Bolognese remarked.
Board of Health
Catherine Donaghey, Chair of the Board of Health, spoke about the coronavirus and said she was “amazed at the response to COVID,” noting her “brief update doesn’t paint the full picture.”
Donaghey continued: “The COVID response was the predominant activity of 2020.”
She called the outreach to residents a positive, noting how the health department followed up on 1,200 residents to track the virus. All that data can be found on the town’s website (www.winchester.us).
The health department is also offering the vaccine to homebound residents, not to mention conducting weekly testing at Town Hall (with results ready in 24 hours).
Even with COVID so prevalent, it hasn’t stopped the health department from inspecting all food establishments for health and safety violations.
Donaghey highlighted the collaborative effort between the health department and school department regarding flu clinics, as more than 400 received flu shots.
The health department also worked with the Coalition for a Safer Community on a racial equity and authenticity forum, plus assisted the organization with mental health efforts. Donaghey thanked Winchester Hospital and the En Ka Society for their assistance.
The Board of Health chair also thanked Public Health Nurse Kathy Whittaker, who’s retiring after 25 years of service.
Susan Verdicchio, Chair of the Select Board, mentioned several infrastructure projects including Wildwood Street drainage (completed), Waterfield Bridge (completed), Lake Street Bridge, Main Street Bridge, Swanton Street Bridge, North Reservoir Dam, Muraco Elementary School culverts, lead service line replacement, MS4 permit (year four funding), and traffic improvements (completed projects at Main Street/Highland Avenue and in front of the McCall Middle School).