Town clerk Fran Smith swears in, from left, councilors David Watson, Toby McGrath and Stephen Walker during Monday night’s inauguration. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Brunswick town councilors are gearing up for what they predict will be a difficult budget season as they welcome a new council member. 

Toby McGrath, the newest councilor, was sworn in during a brief ceremony Monday alongside returning councilors Stephen Walker and David Watson. 

Council Chairman John Perreault was unanimously re-elected as chairman for the third year. James Mason will return to his role as vice-chairman.

It is going to be an expensive budget year, councilors agreed, with payments coming due for the new $20 million Kate Furbish Elementary School and the construction of the new $13 million central fire station. 

It will be a balancing act, said councilor Kathy Wilson. 

“Nobody wants to pay taxes, but everyone wants to keep services,” she said. 

In May, councilors narrowly approved a $67.8 million school and municipal budget for 2020, which raised taxes an estimated 4.97%. The roughly $26 million town-wide budget accounted for a 1.92% tax increase and the $40.1 million school budget, reduced by about $2 million from the original presentation, carried a 3% increase. 

Wilson, who voted against the budget, said she was concerned about “sticker shock” for some residents. She predicts this year will be even harder. 

“We want to please everyone but we can’t,” she said Monday. 

This year will also include Brunswick’s new comprehensive plan, planning for 150 acres donated by Maine Gravel Services to be developed for recreation, and continuing efforts to prepare for closing the dump in 2021. 

Climate control and fixed-income residents will also continue to play a role in her decision making for the coming year, she said. 

Perreault agreed that the budget would be “huge” this year, but added that another of the council’s biggest tasks will be to help solve transportation challenges for the 100 asylum seekers who arrived in town this summer. Councilors will start planning for that after their retreat on Saturday, he said, and hopefully schedule a meeting with officials from the Brunswick Explorer. 

McGrath, who is filling Jane Millett’s former role representing the downtown district, said after the election that he wants to understand how municipal finances work so that during budget season he can help balance having the best services and mitigating the burden on property taxes. He has ideas to help put money toward infrastructure and education, he said earlier, but admitted that there will be a learning curve. 

Newly elected school board member Elizabeth Bisson and returning members Mandy Merrill and Elizabeth Sokoloff were also sworn into their roles Monday. Stephen Langsdorf and Kristin Collins of Preti Flaherty will return as town attorneys. 

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