The former Hawthorne School and current home to the Brunswick School Department administrative offices. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved nearly $1 million in cuts to the proposed school department budget, effectively bringing the school budget’s project tax impact down to nothing. 

The Brunswick town council has made similar reductions to the municipal budget and is also presenting a 0% tax leverage. 

Despite two flat budgets, residents will still face a 3.3% tax increase with the new Kate Furbish Elementary School debt service and the county tax. This will increase the tax rate, currently $19.72 per $1,000 of valuation, to $20.40, meaning the tax bill for a $200,000 home would increase about $136 to $4,080. The budget is expected to be adopted by the council Monday.

The roughly $42 million school budget is largely driven by the first $1.4 million payment of the $20.3 million Kate Furbish school, which is slated to open in the fall. 

Other drivers include a $343,000  increase in staffing, supplies, equipment and contracted services for English for Speakers of Other Languages. With the arrival of asylum seekers from Africa last summer, the number of students in the program doubled, requiring the department to serve “above and beyond what our base staffing was,” Kelly Wentworth, school business manager told the council recently. 

Special education services are also slated to increase by more than $350,000, something Wentworth said continues to get removed from the budget “year after year.” 

Another driver is the new pre-Kindergarten program, a pilot of which launched at Coffin School this year with 30 students. Initial pre-K costs, with staff, transportation and classroom supplies will cost $585,000 but will be reimbursed by the state the same year. The funds cover another 60 students. 

The current version of the budget still includes these increases, but officials had to cut more than $930,000 for that to happen. 

The biggest cuts are seen in the removal of the Freshman Academy, a targeted early intervention program to help freshmen transition to the high school, which will save the department over $300,000. According to Superintendent Paul Perzanoski, participation has declined over the years, and the reallocation of the five staff members to different departments will help reduce class sizes. Brunswick High School Principal Troy Henninger said he is confident that students who need it will still receive the intervention they would have otherwise. 

Other cuts include a reduction of facilities projects totaling $240,000. The “projects” include delaying the hiring of two custodians for the Kate Furbish school, paving the bus garage, replacing carpeting at the junior high and replacing the lockers in the boys’ locker room at the high school, among others. 

To save an additional $100,000, officials removed one of three locally funded school buses. 

The food service budget has been operating with a nearly $100,000 surplus, Perzanoski said, so $75,000 will be used to offset the budget impacts. 

Technology reductions, central office restructuring and moving cost savings account for an additional $178,000. 

 

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