Details scarce in Brunswick municipal budget proposal
BRUNSWICK — Proposed cuts in jobs and services in the 2010-2011 municipal budget remain unknown following a brief presentation to the Town Council on Monday.
Town Manager Gary Brown gave the council a rough outline of the obstacles facing the spending plan – specifically a $1.97 million gap – before requesting a consensus on a potential property tax increase.
Although some councilors held firm on an earlier mandate to hold the line on property taxes, others were reluctant to commit to anything without knowing the effects on municipal staff and services.
Councilor Ben Tucker said he is prepared to raise taxes, but requested that Brown produce four budget scenarios: a zero percent increase in the mil rate, a 2 percent increase, a 4 percent increase and a 6 percent increase.
Brunswick's current mil rate is $22.54 per $1,000 of assessed value.
According to Brown, a 6.8 percent increase would be required to fill the nearly $2 million gap while maintaining the status quo on services and staff.
"I want to know the qualitative effect of those scenarios and I want to know specifically what services will be affected," Tucker said, adding that the information is needed so the public can advise the council about which proposed cuts they want to avoid.
Brown, meanwhile, said he is hesitant to present the scenarios because of the effect on personnel.
"Once the ink hits the paper these people are going to know their jobs are being targeted," Brown said.
But Chairwoman Joanne King agreed with Tucker.
"I'm not being insensitive, but that's been going on all over the state," King said. "Employees should know sooner rather than later."
Councilors John Perreault, Dave Watson and Suzan Wilson all expressed interest in preventing a property tax increase – a request that Brown said would probably result in the loss of 10 jobs.
Wilson said while no increase might seem impossible and painful, private-sector workers have already been hit by the economy.
"People always talk about a class war between the rich and poor," she said. "But there could be a class war between private-sector employment and public-sector employment. ... Public sector employees should not be immune to the realities the private sector is facing."
King, meanwhile, said it is important for the council to meet with the School Board, which last week was presented a proposed budget of $32.4 million by Superintendent Paul Perzanoski. Although that plan is a $1.03 million reduction from the current budget, Perzanoski has subsequently approached Brown about adding another $250,000 to cover the debt service on citizen-approved extras for a new elementary school.
If approved, the additional $250,000 would result in nearly a 1 percent property tax rate increase.
However, that increase would not likely save the jobs of 40 employees included in Perzanoski's $1.4 million in proposed reductions. The cuts include 18 of 21 school resource assistants, a special education position at an elementary school, and the special education department head at Brunswick High School.
The resource assistant cuts were of particular concern to School Board members on March 10. Some said they prefer deeper cuts elsewhere.
Responding to the depth of the cuts, Vice Chairman James Grant said it wasn't unreasonable to look at an alternate budget with a 1 percent or 2 percent property tax increase – about $600,000. The amount, Grant said, would be about half of a projected 4 percent increase in valuation.
Doing so would also restore the nearly $423,000 that would otherwise have to be cut in resource assistant positions.
Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or email@example.com