Brunswick town councilors: School budget won't fly

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • -1

BRUNSWICK — Some town councilors are already pushing back against a proposed $41 million fiscal year 2020 school budget that includes a 4.75 percent tax increase.

The School Board voted unanimously March 27 to adopt the budget which, if approved, would increase taxes from $18.92 per $1,000 in valuation to $19.82. Town Manager John Eldridge is scheduled to present the proposed school and municipal budgets, and Cumberland County assessment, to councilors April 4, after The Forecaster’s deadline.

The School Department is scheduled to formally present its proposal at the Town Council’s April 11 budget hearing. A public hearing on the school spending plan has been set for May 2, and the Town Council is scheduled to adopt the budget May 13. The annual school budget validation referendum is June 11.

During last week’s meeting, school Business Manager Kelly Wentworth said major drivers behind the tax increase include salaries and benefits, which are up $1.3 million. According to Wentworth, administrative requests (which include new hires) are expected to cost $1.2 million. This leads to a 7.2 percent increase in spending, nearly $2.7 million more than last year’s operating budget.

However, according to Wentworth, if health-care costs are “less than expected,” $71,000 will be deducted from the proposed $40.8 million budget for each percentage that is less than the proposed 7.2 percent.

Some councilors strongly opposed the proposed tax rate hike.

Councilor Jane Millett said there is “absolutely no way” the increase will hold up and the school budget will have to be whittled down.

“That number is way too high,” Millett said. “I won’t support that at all.”

Councilor David Watson said the nearly 5 percent tax increase is “too much” and needs to be reduced by “a lot.”

“I understand the School Board and our schools have needs,” Watson said, “but increasing our taxes by that much will put too much strain on our residents who are already struggling to afford to live in the Brunswick area.”

Councilor Daniel Ankeles agreed the tax impact is too high, but said the town’s own budget for next year is, too.

“There is a way we can work together to achieve the needs of the town and our schools,” Ankeles said. “Both budgets will have to be whittled down further, but I think we can figure out a way to do that.”

Patti McDonald can be reached at pmcdonald@theforecaster.net or 780-9123. Follow her on Twitter: @pmcdonaldme.

Brunswick School Board Vice Chairman Benjamin Tucker, left, and Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski discuss the School Department’s proposed budget on March 27.

-1