Brunswick Town Council is expected Thursday to adopt a new $97.5 million budget, one that comes with a smaller-than-anticipated tax hike that several councilors said had them “pleased.”

The council is likely to approve the new budget — $60 million of which is expected to be covered through property taxes — based on remarks made in support of the proposed 2.4% tax rate increase during a May 9 budget workshop.

The proposed $54.5 million school budget, which would increase by $1.6 million based on the district’s budget proposal, has dominated budget discussion this spring and accounts for over half of the rate increase.

The new budget would take effect on July 1.

The vote comes amid what many town officials have described as a tough budget season.

“In 22 years, I don’t remember the school department starting out at that low a rate. So, all I can assume — and I hate to use that word — is that the school board is seeing that we are in trouble — taxwise,” District 1 Councilor David Watson said, adding that he would vote in favor of the rate increase. “People are in trouble with being able to live in Brunswick.”

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The original proposed tax rate hike was set at nearly 2.9%. Interim Town Manager Julia Henze lowered the rate by decreasing the town’s portion of the hike. To achieve this, the town negotiated a rent increase on office space on the third floor of Town Hall that the town leases to Bowdoin College.

Currently, Henze said at the workshop, the school pays $1,200 per year in rent for the entire floor. In the upcoming fiscal year, Bowdoin will pay just over $192,000 in rent — a figure Henze said is closer to market rate — and will downsize to only take up 85% of the space.

District 6 Councilor Nathaniel Shed said that while he was okay with the hike, he was “not happy about it.”

“I am concerned about cumulative effect of the budget going up every year, which we’ve heard from many people in the audience,” Shed said at the meeting.

Armored vehicle talks resurface

The May 9 budget workshop, which featured the Brunswick police budget presentation, also revisited the highly contested armored vehicle request that the council approved in April.

Police Chief Scott Stewart confirmed at the workshop that the department was working to apply for a Homeland Security Grant to help pay for the vehicle, a Massachusetts-produced BearCat commonly used in SWAT.

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District 5 Councilor Jennifer Hicks, who was one of two dissenting votes against the armored vehicle purchase, said that she would be supportive of forming a task force to touch base on police operations following the Lewiston mass shooting and what Hicks described as a loss of trust stemming from the approval of the armored vehicle.

“I’m talking about building lines of communication; there’s no accusation that there’s racism or there’s malpractice or violence,” Hicks said. “But why do we have to wait for that to have that kind of conversation or have that kind of community line developed?”

Police Chief Scott Stewart said at the meeting that because the Brunswick population is small, the department is already embedded in the “pulse of the community.”

“I don’t want a solution in search of a problem is, I guess, all I’m saying,” Stewart said in response to the task force suggestion.

Thursday’s budget adoption meeting will be held in the council chambers at 6:30 p.m. Residents can attend via Zoom or in person.


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