Brunswick council OKs budget, tax hike; school spending up to voters

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council last week approved the fiscal year 2016 budget by a unanimous vote.

The budget, which includes almost $60 million in expenditures, requires a 3.5 percent increase in the property tax rate, to $28.36 per $1,000 of assessed value from the current $27.40.

It also includes about $36.5 million for the Brunswick School Department, which goes to a budget validation referendum on Tuesday, June 9.

Councilors said the process of reaching the 3.5 percent increase was a good compromise.

“People worked hard, and it came to a good resolution,” Chairwoman Sarah Brayman said. “Everyone at the table compromised and maybe that’s a good thing.”

The final budget includes a much-debated $10,000 allocation for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, although Councilor Jane Millet moved unsuccessfully to amend the budget to remove the MCHPP funding.

“We’ve been somewhat derelict in not coming up with our policy” to fund social services, Millet said. She cited the Tedford Shelter and the Gathering Place as other agencies worthy of applying for funding.

Councilor Dan Harris said he opposed the allocation because he believes the town has “no coherent policy for responding to funding requests from private charities.”

The motion failed, with support from only Brayman, Millet and Harris.

“Right now there is a need in front of us,” Councilor Steve Walker said. “For the life of me I can’t understand why we wouldn’t address that need.”

Councilors eventually unanimously approved budget, including the MCHPP allocation.

After the meeting, Ethan Minton, MCHPP program director, said “we’re pleased and thankful the council approved the request … we know this comes at a time of significant budget constraints.”

When asked about the deliberation about the request, he called the process “fascinating.”

Other final additions to the budget included $20,000 to add back the equivalent of half of an officer’s salary in the Police Department.

The budget leaves one police department position vacant, along with a public works position and a clerical job.

Voting on the school budget will take place at the Brunswick Junior High School Gymnasium on Columbia Avenue. Polls open at 7 a.m. and will stay open until 8 p.m.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.