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BRUNSWICK — Ahead of a public forum next week, the Brunswick School Board discussed a draft budget Wednesday that proposes a 5.26 percent tax increase.
Also on Wednesday, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski announced the resignation of REAL School Principal Martin Mackey after two years of service.
The board also voted to close Brunswick schools for a professional development day for staff on Election Day in November.
Business Manager Kelly Wentworth opened the budget presentation Wednesday evening with a slide reading “under construction,” to remind the public the budget is not finalized.
The board will vote on a final budget March 28 following a 6:30 forum at Town Hall, and present it to Town Manager John Eldridge by the end of next week.
Drivers of the budget are a proposed increase of more than 17 percent in transporation costs, a 17 percent increase in school administration costs, and an almost 16.5 percent increase in special education.
Included in “Tier 1” asks of the administrative budget are two full-time teachers at Coffin Elementary school, totaling $158,500, which were positions moved into the local budget this year due to loss of revenue from Title I grants. A Coffin resource assistant position, part-time Harriet Beecher Stowe teacher and an additional Coffin teacher are also now included due to loss of revenue from Title II grants.
Though the state has approved Brunswick to purchase four new school buses, for which the town will be reimbursed through state subsidy in a future year, the budget also includes $180,000 for the purchase of two new buses, and $63,000 in repairs and maitenance.
Wentworth said the School Department is in discussion with town staff for the purchase of the final two buses, and that the maintenance cost could be revised through the purchase of the new buses.
Also included is a more than $330,000 increase over last year’s budget in facilities costs, partially due to the addition of a part-time administrative secretary position split between food service and facilities.
Board members discussed moving a literacy teacher position for Coffin Elementary School up to meet the need, as well as costs for food services and moving up educational technician positions, before settling on a budget draft proposing a 5.26 percent tax increase.
At-large member Bill Thompson said he did not object to staff bringing the draft forward to the public hearing, but said the tentative tax increase is too high.
“I don’t object, but 5.26 (percent) is very high, and I think it needs to come down a significant amount,” he said.
Perzanoski said Mackey will finish out the academic year at the REAL School, but is considering work in general education and wants to “have more of an eclectic experience” going forward. Perzanoski added Brunswick would “love to see (Mackey) stay,” but the principal is looking at positions in other districts.
“(He) decided he wants to try something different and we’re certainly sorry to have him go,” Perzanoski said.
The vote on the Election Day schedule change was 5-2, with Chairwoman Joy Prescott and Thompson opposed. As a result, an additional day will be added to the 2018-2019 academic year.
The discussion followed a March 5 decision by the Town Council to table an item about moving the polling location from Brunswick Junior High to the Parks & Recreation Center at Brunswick Landing.
The item was not put on the council’s March 19 agenda to give the School Board time to discuss it before a council vote. Board member Ben Tucker and other residents had concerns March 5 that moving the polling location would reduce voter turnout.
Town Clerk Fran Smith spoke on Wednesday about the proposed move, citing security concerns for students and lack of parking at the current site as reasons.
“The junior high (is) a wonderful facility, works great, but in conversations that I’ve had with staff at the school and the resource officer, it’s always been a question of safety,” Smith said. “And to leave the school open … certainly there are concerns that I have, along with concerns they have raised to me, about having an open school at the same time that you have thousands of people there voting.”
Smith added the school board had been “gracious” in the past about closing school on presidential and gubernatorial elections, but she would like to see it done for all elections.
Perzanoski said closing the schools for June elections would be difficult, because Brunswick composes its calendar with Regional School Unit 5 and School Administrative District 75 because all three districts send students to Region 10 Technical School.
The districts can have no more than five dissimilar days, according to state statute, and RSU 5 and SAD 75 do not conduct voting at their schools.
Kelly Wentworth, Brunswick School Department business manager, presents a draft budget Wednesday that proposes a 5.26 percent tax rate increase.