Brunswick school officials defended their $52.9 million budget plan before town councilors during a Thursday meeting.

Superintendent Phil Potenziano said this year’s budget process has been the most challenging in his three-year tenure. The budget request is 7% percent higher than the current one, driven by higher costs for teacher salaries, benefits, special education and increased enrollment, according to the superintendent. If approved as is, the budget would raise property taxes by 4.8%.

The terms of labor contracts caused teacher salaries to hit $19.7 million, an increase of $1.7 million. The department budgeted an additional $838,500 to prepare for an expected influx of 100 students from asylum-seeking families. The money would pay for two teachers, two educational technicians, a cultural broker/language facilitator, a special education teacher, a special education educational technician, technology devices and classroom space.

Brunswick resident Sheena Lawrence told councilors she was worried about the cost of the new students.

“That’s a very large number to impose on the residents of Brunswick,” she said.

Town Councilor Jennifer Hicks said the schools perform a vital service for the asylum-seeking students, most of whom come from African countries and don’t yet speak English.


“Those kids are learning English very fast,” Hicks said. “They become interpreters for their families.

“Certainly, the new Mainers coming into the community poses a challenge, but it could also be seen an opportunity.”

The department’s special education budget also increased by $900,333 because of increased enrollment and cost of services.

“Our special education services have increased, and we’re not only obligated to do it from a federal and state perspective, but it’s the moral thing to do to ensure our students are getting appropriate services,” Potenziano said.

Nate Hintze, a resident and parent of a special education student, said he supports the budget, especially the special education allocation.

“I know it’s expensive, but it really makes a difference for these kids and keeping them in the community,” Hintze said. “Budget cuts for our children force parents to look at other districts.”


Town Councilor Kathy Wilson expressed concern about the anticipated increase in property taxes and its effect on residents, especially older adults on fixed incomes.

“I realize how important it is for kids to get what they need,” she said. “I’m not against the school and the kids. … There’s so many of us that are on limited incomes and it’s driving people out of town, the taxes.”

This budget is smaller than Potenziano’s initial $54.1 million budget proposal, which would have raised property taxes by about 10%. The School Board cut $1.2 million from that proposal by not hiring for certain positions and cutting down equipment and supplies purchases. In addition, the state awarded Brunswick an extra $836,933 in state funding after a state Department of Education appropriation error was discovered last month.

In addition to the school budget, Brunswick’s proposed $37.2 million municipal budget and $1.9 million county budget would raise property taxes by a combined 7.4%. The municipal impact would be 2.31% and the county impact would be 0.28%.

That would raise the property tax rate from $21.69 per $1,000 of property valuation to $23.29. For a $400,000 house, that means property taxes would increase by about $640.

The school budget is subject to Town Council approval before it’s sent for voter approval in June. The council is scheduled to discuss the spending plan at its next meeting Tuesday.

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