BRUNSWICK — After months of deliberation, a divided School Board Wednesday sent a $33.6 million budget for a new elementary school and repairs to the junior high school to the Town Council.
The vote prompted a Town Councilor to express his concern for the higher-than-expected cost, which ignited frustration from at least one board member.
Chairman Billy Thompson and Janet Connors voted against the budget, which would build an elementary school on the old Jordan Acres school property, with a capacity for 660 students in multiple grade configurations, for just under $28 million. The remainder of the funds would be earmarked for repairs to the junior high school.
“I think the board has worked very hard to make this a building that meets the needs of the district,” Thompson said. “It’s a project that needs to be done, but is beyond the means of this town.”
Thompson was the only member to vote against the Board’s recommendation in March to build a new school.
Members Rich Ellis, Teresa Gillis, Jim Grant and Vice Chairwoman Joy Prescott voted in favor Wednesday; facilities committee Chairwoman Sarah Singer and member Cory Perreault were absent from the vote.
Member Brenda Clough abstained from voting after her colleagues defeated her motion to make the building design capable of adding a hallway that connects the second stories.
Speaking as a taxpayer during public comment, Town Councilor Dan Harris reiterated pleas he made in October for the board to be “terribly conservative” when spending, because “the town is hard up” and he is concerned the council would not pass a budget that it found too burdensome on taxpayers.
After the meeting, he told Clough that he supports a new school, but the proposed budget was much higher than he anticipated.
But Clough was frustrated by the insinuation that the board had not fought hard to keep the cost as low as possible, and reminded him that the board “sent the architect back at least 15 times” for modifications to the school’s design in order to trim the budget.
She said the board has tried to make that effort transparent through public meetings and by making design and budget information available online.
Clough said the town has delayed construction of a new school since at least 2011, when the closing of Jordan Acres redistributed students across the district, leading to overcrowding problems. Meanwhile, she said, inflation has only increased construction costs.
The board will present the budget to the council on Dec. 5. The council must decide whether to send the proposal to a bond referendum next June.
Buses full of students leave Brunswick Junior High School, where repairs are part of a $33.6 million building plan approved Wednesday, Nov. 9, by the School Board.