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Budget debate expected to dominate Brunswick council meeting

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Budget debate expected to dominate Brunswick council meeting

BRUNSWICK — The April 26 Town Council meeting will be light on agenda items, but heavy on budget discussion.

The meeting will be largely dedicated to public comment on a proposed fiscal 2011 spending plan, which includes a 2 percent property tax increase and reductions in staff, services and traditional town subsidies.

Among the reductions is a scheduled $107,000 cut in the town's allocation to the Curtis Memorial Library. Library officials say they could be forced to close on weekends in addition to suspending a popular inter-library loan program.

Although e-mails sent to the council have been overwhelmingly opposed to the library cut, there has also been significant correspondence calling on the council to produce a budget without any property tax increase.

The council does not specify where the library cuts come from, just as it doesn't determine how the library spends its money. According to the town's Finance Department, 72.5 percent of the library's fiscal 2010 budget is dedicated to employee expenses, including salaries and benefits.

Representatives from the library are expected to appeal for a full restoration of its current subsidy, $1.08 million, about 83 percent of the library's $1.28 million operating budget.

Meanwhile, debate is expected to continue between councilors hoping to avert municipal layoffs and those calling for for additional belt-tightening.

Town Manager Gary Brown's proposed budget is $28.8 million, a spending plan that includes the elimination of seven municipal positions in addition to reductions to various programs like street paving, the subsidy cut for the library and the closing of Coffin Pond.

Despite those cuts, Brown's budget requires a 2 percent property tax increase. If ratified by the council, the property tax rate would increase from $22.54 per $1,000 of assessed value to $22.99.

A budget retaining current staffing and service funding levels would result in a 6.5 percent increase, or a $24 mil rate.

While there appears to be little appetite for a status-quo budget, some councilors seem prepared to go beyond Brown's 2 percent spending plan to retain some jobs, specifically the natural resources planner and the deputy director of public works.

But a majority also seems poised to support those cuts, and perhaps take the reductions even further.

Meanwhile, the council is awaiting final numbers from the School Department, which has proposed a $32.8 million budget. That allocation request could rise or fall depending on negotiations with the teachers union.

According to Superintendent Paul Perzanoski, contract talks are close to completion. However, he said, the district is waiting on the union's response to a proposal for no pay increase and a moratorium on graduate courses. Combined, those measures could save the district about $500,000, Perzanoski said.

Perzanoski declined to comment on the length of the pay freeze because of the ongoing negotiations.

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

Due to incorrect information provided to The Forecaster, a previous version of this story overstated what percentage of the library's operating budget was devoted to employee salaries.