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Brunswick council hears budget outline

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Brunswick council hears budget outline

BRUNSWICK — The town could close Coffin Pond, reduce its allocation to the Curtis Memorial Library and dial back some street paving projects, even if the Town Council adopts a fiscal 2011 budget with a 2 percent property tax increase. 

That scenario, which includes the elimination of seven municipal positions, was presented to the council on Monday. Town Manager Gary Brown briefed the council on the effects of a 2 percent increase and several others, setting up discussions on the 2010-2011 spending plan.

The council will hold an April 12 workshop where it will review four scenarios Brown outlined Monday. The proposals include zero, 2, 4 and 6 percent increases to the property tax rate.

Some councilors have previously expressed a desire for a no-growth spending plan.

On Monday, Brown offered a glimpse of what that budget might look like.

The presentation highlighted additional staff cuts in Parks and Recreation and the Town Clerk's office, and about $60,000 in reductions in other municipal departments. Allocations to the Brunswick Downtown Association ($45,000) and other outside agencies could also be eliminated, along with deeper cuts to the library subsidy.

A zero increase could also mean reducing the School Department budget by $300,000 – a move that could ensure that 40 school employees already targeted for layoffs would indeed lose their jobs. That could include 18 of the district's 21 resource assistants.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski recently reported that the district's educational technicians union spurned a request to accept a wage freeze for fiscal 2011. Holding back the 3.25 percent raise would have saved the district about $53,000.

Back on the municipal side, Brown said a $1.4 million revenue loss, plus increased expenditures, had created about a $1.97 million budget gap.

Leading Brown's highlighted list of expenditures were $120,000 in losses associated with the town's ownership of the former Times Record building on Industry Road. Last year, the town attempted to sell the building, but Brown said there was no interest from buyers. The town partially offset its costs by renting the building to Southern Maine Community College, but the the school is expected to move to Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Brown said the town will consider more aggressive attempts to sell the building, or may demolish it for redevelopment.

Other spending increases include fuel ($66,000), health insurance ($77,500), solid waste collection ($80,000) and curbside trash pickup ($68,000).

Meanwhile, a 4 percent budget increase would restore most of the municipal employee positions that would otherwise be cut in a 2 percent budget. The 4 percent plan would also avoid cuts in the library subsidy and street paving, and keep open Coffin Pond.

A 6 percent increase would effectively create a status quo budget, meaning no layoffs and funding for municipal departments at their requested levels.

Brown also briefly discussed reducing employee hours through municipal shutdown days, a measure he said would be complicated by union contracts.

According to Brown, the town's daily municipal payroll is about $28,000, nearly 50 percent of which goes to public safety employees. Non-union employees, mostly department heads, cost about $8,600 per day.

Councilor Benet Pols previously requested information about shutdown days. On Monday, Pols also expressed interest in drawing from the town's fund balance to offset increases.

In the past, Finance Director John Eldridge has warned against draining the fund balance for fear it would hurt the town's bond rating.

"If this is indeed a rainy day fund, well, it's pouring right now, " Pols said.

The council's April 12 budget workshop will begin at 7 p.m. at the meeting facility at 16 Station Ave.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net