BRUNSWICK

Following a contentious budget season, a movement is afoot to reject the proposed $37.4 million school budget on the premise it is too low.

Rich Ellis, a former school board chairman who served six years on the pane, said the stark contrast between the continued cutting of the school budget, at the request of the town council, while the municipal budget was raised by $1 million, illustrates where the town’s priorities lie. Ellis said the reductions in the budget will diminish the school department’s ability to serve students.

It will be the first school budget he will vote against, he said.

Ellis has created a Facebook page titled, “No It’s Too Low for Our Brunswick Schools,” and the page has 96 likes as of this morning.

“It’s not about the overall tax rate being low — it’s about the balance, priorities and focus,” Ellis said of the school and municipal budgets.

Ellis said the initial budget proposed by the school board was austere, with built-in cuts and reductions.

For him, the second wave of $500,000 in cuts to proposed spending tipped the balance. He said the council’s recommendations to continue trimming the budget was an overreach of control.

In total, $850,000 was pared from the initial budget proposal. Ten staff positions district-wide were left unfunded, as well as maintenance projects and freshman sports.

Ellis said he would be satisfied if the budget was to return to its pre- $500,000 reduction state, and would be evaluated by the school board, which knows the district best.

Ellis said the town needs to be more mindful in crafting its own budget, and spending for certain line items, such as doubling investment in public transportation, namely for Metro Breez and the Explorer.

The gross $23 million municipal budget increased by about $1 million, or 4.7 percent, from last year. The increase is driven, in part, by an increase in paving and reserve funds for maintenance vehicles, and a fulltime maintenance position in the parks and recreation department.

The council’s goal was to keep the tax rate below 3 percent following the passage of the municipal, school and county budgets.

Superintendent Paul Perzanoski said he appreciates citizens’ good intentions but is concerned if the budget fails, it would put the process back on the table and could stall hiring. In the years Perzanoski has been a superintendent, he said, no budgets have failed.

Ellis said it is important to note the difficult budget process is a result of the uncertainty in Augusta, with the district at one time projecting to lose $1 million if the governor’s proposed biennial budget is passed.

“It does add stress to the local budgeting process,” Ellis said.

Town Councilor Sarah Brayman said an “us versus them” approach doesn’t help.

“My vote was not punitive,” she said of her vote in favor of the school budget.

Brayman said her vote to accept the school budget with the cuts was cast in light of a proposed $28 million elementary school to replace Coffin Elementary School.

The councilor said a new school is important. However, she noted that Brunswick is in a tight spot following the 2011 closure of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station and the current uncertainty of state funding.

Money is expected to come back to the district after the Legislature convenes. Town Finance Director Julia Henze said Monday they are tentatively expecting $600,000 from the state. Once the money is allocated, the school is authorized to spend $400,000 to restore some of their cuts. The remainder would be used to offset the tax rate.

Ellis said he has no idea how the vote will go on June 13, but said people are getting the message. “It depends on who will come out to vote,” he said.

Voting will take place at Brunswick Junior High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots can be requested until Thursday.



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