BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick School Department’s 2020 budget would mean a 3.6% tax increase, but is already more than $5 million lower than what school officials originally pitched.

“If we go below the budget we are presenting … we are talking about an absolute minimum to meet state mandates,” Ben Tucker, school board vice chairman told the town council Thursday.

The proposed budget “does not meet the needs our principals identified to us,” he said, adding that the board wanted to “bring (the council) something that we’re comfortable proposing” and that “prevents us from going backwards” when compared to other districts.

Brunswick School Superintendent Paul Perzanoski (Times Record file photo)

The $40.4 million budget is 5.9% — or $2.25 million — higher than last year’s school budget, according to Kelly Wentworth, school district business manager. If approved, the property tax rate would increase from $18.92 per $1,000 in valuation to $19.62. For a home valued at $200,000, that means the annual taxes would increase from $3,784 to $3,924.

Some of the drivers of the budget include enrollment, such as the 30 pre-kindergarten students the district hopes to draw with a pre-K pilot program (which the state will reimburse), special education needs, transportation needs, services for the approximately 93 homeless students and instructional resources, which have been put off for years, Wentworth said. Many administrators have also seen an increased demand for social-emotional support for students, she said.

Most of the budget increase this year is accounted for in the $873,137 allocated to increases in wages and benefits, but other costs include more than $100,000 lost in grant funding and $587,897 for new positions.

One such position is an assistant principal at Coffin School, Superintendent Paul Perzanoski told the council. When operations move over to the Kate Furbish School in 2020, student numbers are expected to increase, he said, and the district hopes someone can start earlier to help with the transition process.

Some of the initial cuts were made through reductions in health insurance, Wentworth said.

“I’m not going to vote for anything that takes the whole budget over 3, 3.5%,” Town Councilor Kathy Wilson said after the presentation. “I represent the whole town, not just parents of kids.”

If both the proposed school and municipal budgets are approved the total tax rate would increase by 5.8% to $20.02 per $1,000 valuation. That would bring taxes on a $200,000 home to just over $4,000. 

The current proposed municipal budget is $26 million, a $1.7 million increase from last year and would raise taxes by 2.16%.

Other councilors agreed that as the budget season progresses, cuts will have to be made in multiple areas. Now that departments have presented needs-based budgets, the next task is figuring out where and how much they need to cut. Town manager John Eldridge did not set a target tax increase this year.  

“We don’t have crappy schools but we do have crappy roads,” Wilson said, “we have to take care of all our people.”

The next town budget workshops are scheduled for April 18 and 25 and the full budget will be considered for adoption May 13.

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