Superintendent Peter Lancia said he looks forward to future collaborations on upcoming budgets, following concerns aired at previous meetings that there was a lack of communication through the budget process. Chance Viles / American Journal

The city can expect more money from state revenue sharing and school aid than it anticipated, allowing full funding of the school’s requested $1.3 million budget increase while keeping a tax increase low, Westbrook Mayor Mike Foley announced Monday.

The City Council gave preliminary approval, 4-3, to the $41.3 million school budget Monday.

In voting against the budget, Council President Gary Rairdon said too much was unknown about the amount of state funding the city would receive.

“It’s hard to vote on it when we just think we are going to get it. That’s difficult,” Rairdon said. “I don’t think we would run our households like that. I’m concrete, I like to see what we have. Right now, there is a lot of unknown.”

Foley said state revenue sharing to the city should increase $129,182 and he anticipates state aid to education to increase $100,000. The state funding is slated to be confirmed sometime in the next week or so, he said, and he is confident after conversations with the state treasurer that the full amount will come, if not more.

Under the preliminarily approved school budget, the property tax rate would rise from $17.86 to $18.08  per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a median-priced $250,000 home will pay $4,520 in taxes, up $55 from this year.  The county tax rate increase is 1 cent. Under previous estimations, without the additional state funding, the tax increase would have risen to $18.58 per $1,000 of assessed value, for an additional $180 in taxes.


In previous weeks, the school department and city administration had been looking at two proposed budgets. The first was the department’s budget with the now approved increase, which without the now expected state money would have resulted in a larger tax increase. The second was Foley’s then-preferred school budget with a $850,000 increase calculated to keep the tax rate growth at 21 cents.

School Committee Finance Chair Sue Salisbury, who is a state representative for Westbrook, was pleased with the council’s preliminary approval Monday, but she also urged the city to approach additional state education funding with caution.

 “A note of caution that I haven’t seen the governor’s proposed supplemental budget nor increased revenue sharing or spending on education, and I am on the (state) Education Committee,” Salisbury said. 

While Foley has indicated the school budget will stand even if the anticipated state funds don’t come through, Salisbury said,  she is keeping her “fingers crossed,” that last-minute solutions won’t be necessary to avoid a tax increase or to fund the school spending increase.

Councilors Victor Chau and Elliot Storey joined Rairdon in opposing the budget.

I do want to express my lack of faith in the school department for their handling of funds,” Storey said. “Results are what we are working for and I have little faith more money means increased results.”


Councilor Anna Turcotte and residents at the meeting said they hope for improvement in communication between the city and the school department and transparency during budget processes, and Superintendent Peter Lancia said he “looks forward to greater collaboration” with the city.

“Talking is what needs to happen,” resident Ryan Foster said. “Whatever the history is, it obviously bubbled up in this budget process. It needs to improve.”

A resident referendum on the school portion of the budget will be held June 8.

Municipal budget 

The council Monday gave unanimous preliminary approval to the $27.4 million municipal budget, which is down $66,547 from this year’s budget and results in a 35 cent reduction in the municipal portion of the property tax rate.

“We recognize that these proposed adjustments do not include any increase in municipal spending, which is a continued concern,” Foley said. “We are hopeful that in the governor’s proposed supplemental State Budget, there will be even more improvements for both municipal and school revenue that will potentially support investment in critical municipal needs.”

At a previous council meeting, department heads presented a number of requests and needs, including police body cameras and a police department mental health liaison position,  that will be deferred or noted as a priority if other revenue sources such as grant funding arise.

Rent payments of $18,000 for the Brown Street Community Policing Station is not included in this year’s budget, but the department regularly has obtained funding outside of the budget in the past.

Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte said nine vehicles are past due for replacement, including two ambulances, and that there is a “major need” for another deputy chief.

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