The biggest property tax hike in years in Brunswick advanced Monday night after the Town Council approved an inflated budget blamed partly on higher staff salaries and benefits and increased utility costs.

The $92.1 million budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year includes municipal, school and county spending. It marks a 9.2% increase in spending over the current fiscal year and would raise property taxes 7.4% — nearly double last year’s tax hike. That means for a house assessed at $300,000, property taxes would increase about $480.

The $37.2 million municipal budget approved Monday marks a 12.3% increase in spending and will raise property taxes 2.3%. The $52.9 million school budget represents a 7.1% spending hike and would have a 4.8% tax impact. Brunswick voters will have the final say on the school budget during a June 20 referendum vote. The $1.9 million county budget, which the town does not control, represents a 10.4% spending hike and will have a 0.3% tax impact.

The budget had narrow support during negotiations. Of the council’s nine members, five — James Mason, Abby King, Dan Ankeles, Jennifer Hicks and Nathaniel Shed — agreed to keep it as is earlier this month. Councilors David Watson, Steve Walker, Kathy Wilson and Sande Updegraph had proposed reducing the budget to get the tax hike down to around 6%, but they didn’t offer specific cost-cutting proposals.

On Monday, the council approved the school budget by a 6-3 vote, with Watson, Updegraph and Wilson voting no. The council approved the budget as a whole by an 8-1 vote, with Watson voting no.

Walker was looking ahead to the next budget cycle as the council discussed paying for a new recreation complex at Brunswick Landing.


“We can’t get in a pattern where (the property tax hike) is going to be 7% every year,” he said. “We have to do something about costs, and some projects we just have to say ‘no’ to. We need to do a serious cost-benefit analysis of each project we take on. We have to keep taxes down.”

Councilors did not amend Town Manager John Eldridge’s initial budget. Employee salaries and benefits rose by nearly $1.8 million, while an additional $577,014 was included for eight new staff positions and a $501,375 debt-service payment is due on the town’s purchase of 283 acres around Maquoit Bay last year for possible conservation. The eight new positions planned include three Public Works truck drivers/operators, a Public Works garage mechanic, a Public Works administrative assistant, an IT technician, a Parks and Recreation maintenance position and a cultural services coordinator who would assist 60 asylum-seeking families moving to town this summer. The coordinator would also help other groups in need like homeless youths.

The Brunswick School Board, however, cut more than $1 million from Superintendent Phil Potenziano’s initial $54.1 million budget proposal, which would have raised property taxes 10%. The cuts include six proposed positions — two teachers, two educational technicians, a cultural broker/language facilitator and a multilingual learning director — that were planned for about 100 new multilingual students from the asylum-seeking families. The budget does include an additional teacher, instructional strategist and two educational technicians who specialize in multilingual students and are expected to be hired next school year. The district currently has about 100 multilingual students.

The school budget includes a $1.7 million increase for teacher salaries, while the special-education budget increased by $900,333 and $838,500 was allocated for the new multilingual students.

Voting for the June 20 school budget referendum will be held at Brunswick Junior High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents can vote through an absentee ballot in several ways: by voting at Town Hall, picking up an absentee ballot at Town Hall and returning it, or calling the town clerk’s office and requesting an absentee ballot be mailed to your address.

If the school budget is approved, it would combine with the municipal and county budgets to raise the property tax rate from $21.69 per $1,000 property valuation to $23.29.

Comments are not available on this story.