I had a really good column almost finished on Wednesday night.  I was writing about the socalled tampon tax that was sponsored by a Representative from Topsham and is being debated in Augusta.  For what it is worth, I agree with the idea of eliminating the tax and I think we should expand it.  Unfortunately, that column will have to wait for another time, as a whole different type of tax was breaking right on the horizon.  It was reported late Wednesday night on the social media page of a local news purveyor that the Brunswick School Department had made its budget presentation for the upcoming year.   

Somehow the budget had escaped me and, I would bet, many of you as well.   

According to the report online, the school department is requesting a budget that is more than $5 million higher than it was last year.  According to the same post, the actual increase from this year’s budget to the proposal for next year comes in at more than 13 percent.  Did we have a 13 percent increase in the number of students served by the department? 

To be exact the actual amount of the increase is $5,140,234.  This is according to the presentation on the School Department’s web page.  Of that increase the two highest budget drivers are in increases to wages and benefits and administrative costs.   

In fact, those two-line items alone account for more than 95% of the total budget increase year to year.   

As distressing as those numbers are, some of the really problematic numbers are buried deep within.  The presentation from the department reveals on page 14 of the 124 pages that the amount of local monies needed for the budget has increased by more than $4.4 million.  That amount is all on the local tax payer.  That is not federal money.  It is not state money.  That is all our money. 

These numbers will prompt most of the people in town to fall into one of two categories.  There will be those that will support the school department and their budget without concern for how high the increases are or could be.  Still there will be others that support the school department but want to see a number that better reflects the town’s people’s ability to pay for those increases.  The battle lines will be drawn, and the trench lines will not move very far.   

Of course, I have to give it to Superintendent Paul Perzanoski.  There are few others as skilled as the superintendent when it comes to shooting for the moon.  He has mastered the budget process and what goes into making the budget.  I suspect that he knows he will not get everything that he is looking for in the budget but if he gets most of it, he still comes out ahead. 

There is even more padding in the budget by way of a caveat.  In the slides there is a reminder that there are several unknowns.  One of the unknowns is that the final numbers for the contracts of teachers, bus drivers, custodians and grounds are a work in progress.  The dollar amounts for health care and dental are a best guess at this point.  So, in the end, some of the numbers that fill up those 124 pages of the presentation are wishes and not hard numbers. 

Remember there are also monies out there to start paying for the new elementary school.  There is a new track that is being built at the high school.  There is a new fire station that will need to be paid for a Junior High School eventually.  Ugh.   

This budget could get better, on the other hand it could get worse.  But with the imposed deadline for a final vote of the School Board being only a week away, there may be little hope that real substantive changes could be had.  The last hope to take a hard look at the school budget may lie with the Town Council. 

I guess we should get ready to pay dearly. 

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected] 

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