BRUNSWICK — Brunswick town councilors on Thursday unanimously approved a spending plan that will keep the tax rate impact at 0% and avoid previously pitched cuts to both Curtis Memorial Library and the local senior center. 

The council is expected to adopt the budget Monday. 

Both the school and municipal budgets saw serious cuts to achieve a mostly “flat” budget to help alleviate the financial burden of coronavirus on taxpayers, according to town officials. 

On Wednesday, the school board authorized nearly $1 million in cuts to the school department budget, primarily through the elimination of the freshman academy, facilities projects and a locally funded bus. 

Despite the two flat budgets, residents will still face a 3.3% tax increase due to the Kate Furbish Elementary School debt service and the county tax. This will increase the mil rate, currently $19.72 per $1,000 of valuation, to $20.40 — meaning the tax bill for a $200,000 home would increase by about $136, to $4,080. 

Town Manager John Eldridge previously announced that Curtis Memorial Library’s budget would be slashed by $50,000 (after it was initially expected to increase by $45,000) and that instead of increasing by $7,400, People Plus — the Brunswick-area senior center — would see its budget decreased by $10,000. 

But Thursday, Eldridge said he and finance director Julia Henze were able to move money around to keep those allocations steady. They will not get the planned increases, but funding will also not be reduced. 

Eldridge said they recalculated employee health benefits for $40,000, cut $2,000 from marine resources, $10,000 from the sidewalk reserve and $3,000 from the browntail moth budget, which he said has been operating below budget. 

A previous version of the budget cut costs through a proposal to send recyclables to the landfill for a year, but after councilors pushed back, the $75,000 was added back in. 

Thursday, Eldridge announced the program will actually only cost about $68,000 after the council decided to eliminate glass — the heaviest recyclable — from the recycling stream to save money. 

Paving and road rehabilitation, previously expected to increase by at least $100,000, will stay flat at about $1.1 million. That’s nearly $800,000 short of the recommended funding level. 

The budget includes no layoffs but does leave unfilled positions vacant. Officials eliminated two vacant positions they hoped to fill for an additional $150,000 and will delay hiring for two others. The police department is down one or two officers this year, and will remain so, saving about $60,000 for each officer.  

The council ultimately decided not to pursue any changes to the police department’s roughly $4.4 million budget, which Cmdr. Mark Waltz said is already “lean,” and will instead take a closer look at policy, training, equipment and possible redistribution of services once incoming chief Scott Stewart steps into his new role. The discussion was prompted by dozens of emails to the council from people who wanted to “defund the police” in the wake of protests spurred by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. 

The cuts to the 2021 municipal budget were exacerbated by an estimated $775,000 in anticipated revenue that was lost when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Counted-on funds from state revenue sharing, excise tax and interest revenue have all been slashed. Officials have also allocated $150,000 from the fund balance to help offset operational expenses. 

 

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