Tax goal requires Brunswick to cut $700K from budget proposal

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BRUNSWICK — Approximately $700,000 must be cut from Brunswick’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal for the Town Council to meet its goal of keeping a property tax increase to no more than 3.5 percent.

Town Manager John Eldridge presented the municipal budget to councilors at a workshop April 5.

nearly $39 million budget proposal from the School Department represents 60 percent of the budget and proposes a 3.74 percent increase in taxation.

The municipal budget is more than $24.3 million, a nearly $934,000 increase from the current budget. As proposed, the town spending would increase the tax rate by approximately 1.31 percent. 

Combined, both proposals would require a 5.17 percent tax increase.

The School Department’s proposal was reduced last week by more than $517,000, after health insurance costs did not rise the way they were projected. 

Without that reduction, the overall increase to property taxes would have been 6.42 percent, according to the manager’s proposed budget, issued April 2. That figure included the School Department’s original proposal for its share to increase taxes by 4.98 percent.

The School Department was scheduled to present its updated proposal to councilors in an April 12 workshop.

Eldridge said April 5 that the two biggest drivers of the municipal budget are salaries and benefits, and debt service. Costs associated with debt service will rise more than $119,000 in the coming year.

Police costs will rise by nearly $217,000, while fire costs will rise more than $92,000. Both increases, Eldridge said, are mostly the result of salaries and benefits.

The public safety portion of the budget also includes fuel costs for the Police and Fire departments, and the installation of new cameras at the Mere Point boat launch and Water Street landing, which will be monitored by police and cost roughly $12,000.

Costs associated with public works are also set to increase by nearly $162,000, which Eldridge said is due mostly to salaries and benefits.

The recreation and culture portion of the budget will also rise by more than $193,000, which is partially due to an increase in the town’s appropriation to Curtis Memorial Library. 

The other driver of the recreation and culture portion is the addition of a full-time maintenance worker at the Parks and Recreation Department, the cost of which will be offset by eliminating the facilities foreman at Town Hall.

As a result, the Parks and Recreation Department will assume responsibility for the cleaning and maintenance of Town Hall.

Eldridge said the reduced Town Hall position is the biggest change to the general government budget, set to rise by nearly $24,000 in the coming fiscal year.

“We just thought it was a more efficient use of the money,” he said.

The proposed budget also recommends the town using just over $1.3 million of the unassigned fund balance to finance a variety of projects, including Kimberly Circle road reconstruction, small facilities upgrades at town buildings, and railroad quiet zones and additional safety measures. Implementing the quiet zones will cost $100,000 from the fund balance.

Repaving Moody Road and Lane will also be financed by the unassigned fund balance for $180,000, as will the advance for two new school buses for $176,000.

The School Department will pay the town back for the buses after it is reimbursed through state subsidy in fiscal year 2020. 

Also on April 5, Eldridge outlined items that did not make it into the municipal budget proposal that “could at some point” due to the town’s need for them, such as $500,000 for road resurfacing and between $250,000 and $500,000 in road reconstruction.

“We’ve harped on this year after year that we’re not spending what we need to be spending on road resurfacing,” he said, adding some roads in town also need to be rebuilt.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on the overall budget May 3 and adopt the budget May 14. The school budget voter referendum is June 12. 

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Brunswick officials must cut approximately $700,000 from the proposed budget to reach the Town Council’s goal of no more than a 3.5 percent tax increase in fiscal year 2019. The combined municipal and school budgets now would require a 5.17 percent tax hike.

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