Westbrook City Council gave preliminary approval  Monday to a $95 million combined city and school budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The vote was 4-2 with Councilors Gary Rairdon and Victor Chau opposed. Council Vice President Anna Turcotte was absent.

Total city and school revenues add up to $40.8 million, leaving $54.1 million to be raised by the taxes,  according to the latest city information.

“That’s an enormous amount of money,” Rairdon said.

The tax rate rises $1.80 from $16.68 to $18.48 per thousand dollars of valuation, representing a 10.8% jump. It means taxes on a home assessed at $400,000 would rise $720 from $6,672 to $7,392.

Rairdon called the 10.8% tax rate hike a “huge, huge increase.”

The school part of the combined budget is up $4.5 million from $47.2 million for the current year to $51.7 million, up 9.6%. It results in a $1.45 tax rate increase to pay for local education. Councilor Jennifer Munro said half of the school budget increase is to cover upcoming contract negotiations with teachers and bus drivers. “It’s necessary to get our wages where they need to be,” Munro said.


The expected state school subsidy for Westbrook drops slightly from $19.59 million to $19.57 million.

Councilor Claude Rwaganje said as the city grows, the state revenue sharing for the schools continues to shrink and he favored the budget. “We can’t tell our kids not to go to school. We can’t tell parents not to send their kids to school,” Rwaganje said.

Mayor David Morse said the School Committee, in action at 5 p.m. Monday before the council meeting, reduced its budget $150,224 due to less-than-expected health insurance costs, and added in some fund balance money and the city matched it. The combined $300,448 sum provided some tax relief to “taxpayers during this challenging season,” Morse said.

The action knocked the tax rate increase down 11 cents from the earlier $1.91 to $1.80.

Rwaganje and Chau both spoke about the city helping the senior citizens on fixed incomes.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the state and the city have tax assistance programs for eligible senior citizens and they should contact the city tax collector for eligibility. Bryant said the is city putting together a brochure about tax relief for seniors, many of whom have not applied.

The council’s final vote on the budget is set for May 6. After that, the school portion of the budget goes to the voters June 11 in a validation referendum. Rairdon said it will be the voters’ opportunity to be heard.

No one from the public attended Monday’s televised special council meeting in person.

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