BRUNSWICK — Town councilors have narrowly approved a $67.8 million combined school and municipal budget that will raise taxes an estimated 4.97 percent.

The roughly $26 million town budget accounts for a 1.92 percent tax increase, and the $40.1 million school budget, reduced by about $2 million from the original draft, carries a 3 percent increase. The combined budgets will raise the tax rate from $18.92 per $1,000 of taxable value to $19.86. For a home valued at $200,000, that means the tax bill would increase about $188, from $3,784 to $3,972.

Councilors Kathy Wilson, Jane Millett, David Watson and John Perreault voted against the budget Monday night, with Wilson saying it would cause “sticker shock,” especially for some of the town’s older residents.

“We were elected to be representatives of the whole town,” she said, not just school-aged children and their parents. They need to think of their grandparents too, she said, adding that she would vote for the budget if it were 0.5 percent less, but not as it stands.

The town’s budget increase is driven largely by public safety staffing requests, including the addition of four firefighters, an inspector and one police officer.

The fire department has 32 career firefighters and has been operating with the same staffing level for about 20 years, while the calls for service have been increasing, Fire Chief Ken Brillant told the council at an earlier budget meeting.

The new property tax assistance program that the town approved in December costs another $70,000, but will help provide some tax relief for seniors over 70 who have lived in Brunswick for at least 10 years.

Recycling costs increased by well over $100,000 this year because of the collapse in the recycling market, Town Manager John Eldridge said. The cost to recycle is now $120 per ton compared with the $80 per ton to take waste to the landfill.

The increase in the school budget, which accounts for 60 percent of the overall budget, is being driven partly by enrollment numbers, which are expected to increase next year when Coffin School rolls out a pre-kindergarten pilot program for 30 students. The district also plans to hire a new assistant principal for Coffin to help with the transition to the Kate Furbish School in 2020.

Increased supports for special education students, instructional resources that have been put off for years, and services for the approximately 95 homeless students in the district, including transportation needs, also were identified as top priorities for next year.

The school budget will go to voters for a validation referendum June 11.

The town council also approved the capital improvement program through 2024, which does not approve any funding, but is a plan for spending and projects going forward, Eldridge said.

Some of the suggested projects include the Central Fire Station, the Brunswick High School track and Veterans Plaza. It also was suggested to spend money from the general fund balance on street resurfacing and rehabilitation.

Hannah LaClaire can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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