Brunswick School Board approves budget
Town Council to review proposed municipal spending plan
BRUNSWICK — The School Board last week unanimously passed a $33.7 million budget for the 2010 fiscal year, an increase of 0.16 percent over the current spending plan.
The School Department's budget will be presented to the Town Council during a workshop in May. The council is expected to get its first peek at the proposed municipal budget during its April 27 meeting.
According to acting Town Manager Gary Brown, the council will review a municipal spending plan with an approximate increase of 1.5 percent to 2 percent. Brown called the budget "status quo," with no new programs. He said the rise in expenditures was mainly driven by costs out of the town's control, specifically a $60,000 increase in taxes from Cumberland County and another $60,000 increase from the Brunswick-Topsham Water District.
Brown's budget doesn't take into account a potential loss in revenues from motor vehicle excise tax. The tax is being challenged by a citizens initiative that would reduce auto excise by 50 percent for the first five years a vehicle is registered.
Municipalities across the state are rallying against the measure – Brunswick expects to lose $1.3 million annually if it passes – but it appears destined for a November referendum. If ratified, it's unclear when the measure will be enacted, or how the timing will affect communities in the middle of their budget cycles.
Brown said this week that although his proposed budget doesn't factor the excise tax measure, he's had "very preliminary" discussions with Finance Director John Eldridge about delaying some expenditures for capital projects. Brown said he hasn't started to assess which projects could be delayed.
Meanwhile, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said the only missing expenditures in the school budget are interest payments from the new elementary school project, which could bump the budget to 0.45 percent more than this year's spending.
Perzanoski said that although Brunswick is scheduled to receive an additional $890,000 in funding from the recently enacted federal stimulus bill, the School Department is planning to funnel the money into its surplus account in case the state orders a curtailment similar to the one it did last October.
Perzanoski said recent revenue projections for the state's 2011 budget increased the likelihood for reductions in state school spending.
The School Department will also encounter losses in federal impact aid and tuition students. The federal aid will evaporate as military-related students depart before the 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station. The district will also see reductions in tuition students from Durham, which recently formed Regional School Unit 5 with Freeport. Durham currently pays to send the bulk of its high school students to Brunswick, but over the next seven years will begin sending them to Freeport High School.
Perzanoski recently said the loss of BNAS students had actually helped the district meet budget demands this year because declining enrollment allowed normal teacher attrition rates to substitute for potential layoffs.
The district also saved $531,000 by closing Hawthorne Elementary School a year earlier than scheduled.
Perzanoski said the real budget challenges would come in the next two budget cycles.
Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or email@example.com.