Brunswick school budget passes with decisive, though shrunken, margin

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BRUNSWICK — Voters turned out to support the School Department budget by a greater than 2-to-1 margin on Tuesday, although it was also the smallest show of support for the budget in recent years.

The $33.5 million budget represents an increase of $189,000, or 0.6 percent over last year.

But significant reductions in state and federal funding, coupled with increases in fixed costs and a salary increase for teaching staff, left a $2.4 million budget gap, resulting in an added local cost burden of 14 percent.

Adjustments in the municipal budget, and a decision to withdraw $1 million from the town’s general fund, have dampened the impact on taxpayers, so that the actual tax increase is projected to be 5.45 percent.

With 2,336 voters weighing in on the budget, 1,628, or 70 percent, cast their ballots in favor of the school budget. The unofficial tally showed that 708 residents voted against the budget.

Town Clerk Fran Smith said that the voting process went smoothly.

While the 70 percent majority was comfortable, it was also the lowest level of support for the budget validation referendum in several years. The turnout of 2,336 was significantly lower than the last midterm election, when 3,700 turned out.

Over the last two years, 76 percent of voters supported the budget, while 2009 and 2008 showed support levels of 83 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

State Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, who came under fire earlier in the year when his former fiancee, Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, charged him with stalking her in the wake of their breakup, received just 58 percent of the vote in an unopposed primary. He drew 278 votes, with 205 write-in or blank ballots.

Smith said that a small sampling of the ballots seemed to indicate that the majority of the ballots not cast in Cornell du Houx’s favor were left blank.

For some primaries, Brunswick vote tallies mirrored statewide results; voters supported state Sen. Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth and Secretary of State Charles Summers, who won the Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively, for U.S. Senate.

In two other races, the people of Brunswick threw significant support to candidates who lost statewide.

In the Republican primary in the 1st Congressional District, Brunswick voters heavily favored Patrick Calder of Portland, who seemed to narrowly lose the statewide race to state Sen. Jonathan Courtney of Springvale. They also supported Nancy Thurber of Falmouth in the Democratic primary for Cumberland County register of probate; she lost a close race to John O’Brien of Portland.