BRUNSWICK — With little discussion or fanfare, the School Board on Wednesday cut its nearly $38 million proposed fiscal year 2017 budget by $410,000, following a previous request from the Town Council.
Two days earlier, the council had reached consensus to have the Town Manager reduce the municipal budget by $273,000, while having the School Department budget be cut by more than $400,000, to limit the total property tax increase to 3.5 percent.
Councilors believed the schools should bear more of the reductions, since they constitute a larger portion – about 60 percent – of the town’s budget.
School Board members took that order in stride Wednesday night, approving the cuts in a matter of minutes.
At the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski laid out his recommendations to hit the council’s target.
He suggested carrying over $255,000 of unused funds from this year’s budget, mainly from bus and buildings and grounds expenditures.
He also suggested putting less money into reserve accounts, including health insurance and unemployment. He said the department had recently renegotiated its dental insurance premiums, saving the district an estimated $60,000.
Board members unanimously accepted Perzanoski’s recommendations. They did not touch an $85,000 paving project at the high school – a project that had been singled out by several councilors – or eliminate any staff positions.
After the meeting, Perzanoski said it was not hard to quickly meet the council’s target reduction.
In crafting budgets, the school chief said he has “Plans A, B, C, D, E, and F … this was plan B.”
In terms of the cuts affecting programming and operations, “I think we’re pretty solid” for next year, he said.
But because of using surplus revenues and taking from reserves, “I’m worried about years going forward,” he added.
The proposed budget as it stands is a 3.2 percent increase over this year’s budget.
The board is also weighing a proposal for a $30 million bond to send to voters in November to construct a new elementary school at the site of Jordan Acres and repair the Brunswick Junior High School.
A public hearing on the school and town budgets was set for Thursday night, May 12, at 7 p.m.
In other business Wednesday, the board unanimously authorized Perzanoski to negotiate to hire Martin Mackey as the principal of the Brunswick REAL School.
Mackey is the director of the REAL School in Falmouth, an alternative school for behaviorally and academically challenged students operated by Regional School Unit 14. He is also the president of the Maine Association of Alternative Education.
The School Board voted in March to take over the 30-year-old special education school from RSU 14. The School Department plans to eventually move the program from Falmouth to a new home at Brunswick Landing.
Mackey has worked with at-risk students for over 18 years, both in public schools and in private wilderness therapy programs, according to his biography on the REAL School’s website.