$35.7M school budget heads to Brunswick voters

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BRUNSWICK — After wrangling for more than a month, the Town Council adopted a $58.9 million budget at a special session last week.

Representing $21 million in municipal spending, a $35.7 million school budget and $1.3 million in payments to Cumberland County, the proposed budget limits a tax increase to 3.5 percent. 

The school budget still requires voter approval in a referendum on Tuesday, June 10. 

All districts will vote at the Brunswick Junior High School at 65 Columbia Ave. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Registered Democrats in State House District 50 will also vote in a contested primary between Jackie Sartoris and Ralph Tucker. All other primary races are uncontested.

If the school budget is approved next week, Brunswick property owners will shoulder roughly $36.7 million of the combined spending plan, with the remainder coming from other revenue sources. 

Through spending cuts and revised revenue projections, the council and School Board were able whittle down the combined budget proposed early last month, which included a tax increase of more than 7 percent. 

According to Interim Town Manager John Eldridge, taxpayers are now looking at a mil rate increase of less than a dollar, to $27.46 per $1,000 of assessed value. 

While Brunswick managed to pull through the difficult budget process without eliminating staff or operating hours, the town will be forced to delay roadwork and vehicle replacement.

Out of the more than $524,000 cut from the municipal budget, nearly two-thirds came from paving and vehicle replacement funds. 

A half-mile paving overlay project Greenwood Road will be delayed at least a year after $95,000 pegged to fund the project was cut, Eldridge said.

Reserve funding for police, fire, public works and parks and recreation vehicles was also eliminated, again putting the town behind on its planned capital improvement schedule, Eldridge said.

A capital reserve plan put in place two years ago was meant to allocate money into sinking funds for each department to save up for necessary replacements instead of budgeting them as straight-line items, Eldridge said.

So far, allocations for future purchases have been soft targets for budget cuts, leaving balances in the vehicle reserve accounts far short of what was expected when the plan was established, he acknowledged.

Without reserve accounts, the town may be forced to borrow in order to fund equipment replacements, like an aging tractor used to remove snow from the sidewalks, he added. 

“We knew that we weren’t going to get where we wanted to be in the first few years,” Eldridge said. “But it is somewhat disappointing that we weren’t able to fund what we wanted to this year.”

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.