The Town Council on Feb. 5 also discussed a target tax rate increase, as discussion began on fiscal 2019 budget, and an ordinance amendment that would allow food vendors to leave their equipment on the Town Mall overnight.
Town Manager John Eldridge said the proposed new quiet zone will stretch from Union Street to the Freeport line. Paired with the town’s existing quiet zone at Maine Street, the new zone would allow for quiet rail crossings from Park Row to Freeport.
The town held a workshop on the topic with rail officials last November, after nearly a year of complaints from residents about noise coming from the Amtrak layover facility in West Brunswick.
Quiet zones reduce noises in communities where trains frequently pass, and typically require a municipality to install supplemental safety measures to ensure safety in the absence of a horn. In an emergency, a horn may still be sounded in a quiet zone.
Eldridge said as part of the process, the town is working on a budget with Gorrill Palmer engineering for alternative safety measures at the Stanwood Street and Church Road crossings. He said all related costs would borne by the town, as the entity that requests a zone.
He added the alternative safety measures like channelized islands on both Stanwood and Church Road are an addition the town is considering regardless of if they are required to establish the zone.
“That’s something we talked about doing even if we didn’t have to do that, just because it’s an added level of safety,” he said.
Councilors on Monday suggested a variety of tax rate ranges, from 2.75 to 3.5 percent. For every 1 percent increase in taxes, approximately $400,000 in “new money” is generated.
Historically, the town has received 40 percent of new money raised by the annual tax increase, with Brunswick schools receiving the remaining 60 percent.
Eldridge said after receiving all of the municipal budgets from town departments, the “rough number” for municipal increases is projected at $1.4 million. Of that figure, he said the biggest driver is personnel costs, which account for roughly $600,000.
If the town were to implement a 2.5 percent tax increase, schools would receive $625,000 while the town would receive just over $400,000.
“At $400,000 we would have to cut a million of what our requests are at this point,” Eldridge said.
He added that health insurance and retirement are large components of personnel costs.
At-large Councilor Alison Harris said in 2021, the town’s debt service would soar from the previous year’s $1.5 million to $3.2 million, to pay for the new $28 million elementary school.
The increase in debt service, paired with the new preschool program to be phased in by the School Department, she said, would result in “huge tax increases” in the years to come.
“I’m trying very hard to find a balance between being conservative about where we go with the tax increase leading up to that 2021 jump, and at the same time understanding that the needs the departments have expressed in their $1.4 million ask are real,” Harris said.
At the request of Councilors Suzanne Wilson and Kathy Wilson, the council also discussed drafting an ordinance amendment to let food vendors leave equipment overnight on the Town Mall.
Councilors discussed hours of operation, fee issues, trash, the aesthetic of the carts and their effect on the intended purpose of the Mall.
Councilor Jane Millett, who said she would prefer to garner public input ahead of moving forward with drafting the ordinance amendment, said there are a lot of factors to consider.
“If we are going to be drafting an ordinance, I think we should address a number of things that we’ve talked about,” she said. “Including who is responsible for trash, hours of operation and days of operation.”