The Westbrook City Council gave preliminary approval Monday to an $87.1 million combined municipal and school budget for the new fiscal year that carries an 8.8% property tax increase.

In a 6-1 vote, the budget passed handily, with the council accepting the $47.1 million school budget as presented.

A council discussion of the school budget prior to the vote, however, infuriated School Committee Chairperson Suzanne Salisbury, who was attending the meeting via Zoom.

“I’ve had enough. I don’t think I can take it anymore, I’m disgusted,” Salisbury told the council.


Salisbury was particularly upset at comments made by Council President Anna Turcotte and Councilor Victor Chau.

Turcotte said she supports the school budget because it takes money to grow the city and the schools. “When people say people are moving to the city for the schools, that’s not true. I want that to be true,” Turcotte said.


“I find it disgusting, I find it so incredibly frustrating, that the president of the City Council would say people are not moving to the city because of the schools. (That’s) completely inaccurate,” Salisbury told the council. “My phone is blowing up from teachers and parents who are sick of hearing that.”

Chau urged residents who are opposed to the school budget to vote it down at the polls, like voters in neighboring Scarborough have done multiple times in recent years.

“It’s funny how many times they vote down the school budget,” Chau said.

Salisbury said Chau doesn’t understand the costs of a referendum, and that people in Scarborough don’t think it’s funny at all when their school budgets are rejected.

The $47.1 million school budget, which includes Adult Education, is up 7.45% over the current budget.

Comments by Council President Anna Turcotte and Councilor Victor Chau upset School Committee Chairperson Suzanne Salisbury at a meeting Monday. File photo / American Journal

Councilor Gary Rairdon, who cast the sole vote against the budget’s approval, said that is not a modest increase.


“In my opinion this is an unsustainable increase for the taxpayers of the city of Westbrook,” Rairdon said. “Tonight is the time that we say no. This is too much.”

He said he has the utmost pride in Westbrook teachers.

“They work very hard. But I really wish I could say that in the upper management,” he said.

Superintendent Peter Lancia said the budget reflects the school district’s needs. “I need to take care of every one of my students,” he said.

The city’s budget raises the tax rate $1.59 to $19.69 from $18.10 per thousand dollars of evaluation. It means taxes on a home assessed at $400,000 would jump up to $7,876 from $7,240, a $636 hike.

Other drivers in the approved budget include a $1.8 million Cumberland County tax assessed Westbrook and $5 million for tax increment financing.


Councilor David Morse said the budget reflects the “priorities of the community.”

The city’s portion of the budget actually led to a decrease in the tax rate from $6.02 to $5.93, a 9-cent drop. Rairdon and Chau both praised Mayor Mike Foley.

“The mayor is doing an excellent job in trying to keep the taxes low,” Chau said.

Resident Liz Eisele McLellan spoke in support of the new budget. “I expect to pay to support the investment in our schools,” she said.

Salisbury, also a Westbrook representative in the state Legislature, could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.

The council’s final vote on the combined budget is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 15.

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