Rising utility and labor costs and a projected influx of students from asylum-seeking families could result in a nearly 10% bump in Brunswick’s school budget in 2023, according to the district’s initial projections.

“We’re aware of what that looks like,” Superintendent Phil Potenziano said at Wednesday’s School Board budget workshop. “That’s a staggering percentage.”

The $54.1 million proposed budget, up $4.7 million from the current fiscal year, includes $1.4 million in contingency funds to support up to 100 new multi-language learners expected to move into new housing units at Brunswick Landing this summer. The School Department projects the increase would bump Brunswick’s property tax rate by $2.15 per $1,000 of valuation, meaning owners of a $200,000 home would see a $430 jump in their tax bill.

Final tax rates will depend on both the approved school budget and Brunswick’s municipal budget, which will be developed over the next several months.

Wage and benefit increases are the largest factors behind the budget hike. Potenziano said the pay bumps, totaling $1.7 million, are necessary for the department to recruit and retain educators and staff.

The budget also includes the cost of four existing positions currently covered by temporary COVID-relief funds. Rising utility costs, along with increases in technical and adult education costs and decreases in spending from the school’s general fund, will mean the district will need to increase tax revenues by $3.2 million just to maintain its current services.


The balance of the proposed increase is mostly aimed at supporting Brunswick’s growing population of multilingual learners and students with individualized education programs, Potenziano said. In the last five years, the number of Brunswick students whose first language isn’t English has nearly quintupled to 80, and the district projects that figure to reach 190 students by October.

More funding from the state could eventually help Brunswick cover the costs of the additional teachers and staff the district will need to support its growing multilingual learning population, Finance Director Kelly Wentworth said. But under the current system, which sees the Department of Education dole out funds based on enrollment data from the previous two years, Brunswick taxpayers will have to bear the immediate cost of the enrollment spike in the coming fiscal year.

“It works well when you have smaller, incremental changes in your student population — 10, 15, maybe even 20 different students,” Potenziano said of the state’s education funding system. “But when you have 100 … it does not adequately support school districts.”

School district and town leaders are currently working with legislators on alternative funding plans designed to support towns like Brunswick that welcome large groups of asylum-seekers. In the meantime, Potenziano urged residents to look beyond their tax bills to the benefits the asylum-seekers could bring to town.

“We’re excited to have these students and families come into our community and become residents here in Brunswick,” he said. “It’s a privilege.”

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