Westbrook School Committee unanimously in first and second readings passed a requested $51.7 million school spending plan, including adult education, for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The figure rises $4.6 million from $47.2 million for the current year, representing a 9.69% hike.

The budget now moves to city councilors’ hands.

Superintendent Peter Lancia proposed his initial $51.9 million budget in March, but it was slightly revamped before going to the school board’s Finance Committee for a line-by-line review.

Brian Mazjanis, school department finance director, said Tuesday that the biggest driver of the increase is the cost of salary and benefits. “We are in contract negotiations with our two largest bargaining units and so around 50% of this increase represents funds set aside for contract negations,” he said.

“An additional 20% of the increase has to do with an increase in our health insurance rates (up 9%) and a new Maine payroll tax that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2025,” he said. “The final 30% has to do with several additional positions added to the budget to support our students and schools and to cover the increase in the cost of goods and services that we have seen over the past year.”

According to the latest City Hall tax figures released April 1, the portion of the tax rate to pay for education would rise an estimated $1.50 per thousand dollars of property valuation from $9.24 to $10.74, representing a 16.2% jump. This means taxes on a home assessed at $400,000 would rise $600 from $3,696 for the current year to $4,296 to pay for education.


Before the first reading March 27, two Westbrook educators backed Lancia’s budget. Sue Lombardo, president of Westbrook Education Association, said the association supported the budget, and Canal Elementary School teacher Megan Murrow spoke of the increase in the number of students in her second grade classroom from 13 students two years ago to 19 now. She spoke up for the increased needs of her students.

Murrow said 21% of her students need multi-lingual support, 26% need individual education support and 42% need regular social and emotional support.

At the second reading of the school budget on April 3, Mayor David Morse said he wanted to have a handle of all capital improvement needs in the city for the next five to 10 years and added there are a number of things on “the horizon” the schools are looking at.

Morse asked for a prioritized list from school officials. “We only have so much money to do it with,” Morse cautioned, emphasizing priority.

The City Council’s first reading for its school vote is set for April 29 with a final, second reading May 6. Then the school budget goes to the people in a June 11 validation referendum.

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