Brewster Could Face More Than $1 Million Override: School Increases Largest Contributor To Budget Hikes

by Rich Eldred

BREWSTER – If the regional and local schools can’t trim the rise in costs, Brewster voters could be faced with an override of as much as $1,119,074.

This would be the second override for school operating expenses in two years. Last spring town voters approved a $964,598 override to fund the Nauset Regional schools. Out of that, $316,878 went to the town's two elementary schools.

This year special education is the prime driver in rising costs for the schools. Brewster’s share of the enrollment in the region has dropped by 3.6 percent, which makes things a little easier for the town.

At a joint meeting of the select board and finance committee Monday night, Town Manager Peter Lombardi, Assistant Town Manager Donna Kalinick and Finance Director Mimi Bernardo presented their fiscal 2025 budget forecast.

Brewster’s total operating expenses are projected at $58,141,576, up from $54,305,049. Adding everything up, the town should take in $58,192,661, mostly in property taxes, up from $54,370,616 in the current fiscal year. Presuming those numbers pan out and the schools stay within a 4.5 percent budget increase, the town will have a levy surplus of $51,085. However if Nauset’s Regional budget is up 8 percent and the elementary schools go up 12 percent — as they were as of Monday night — then Brewster voters would have to approve an override of $1,119,074 for school operations.

The town had requested both the regional and town schools to try to stay within a 3 percent increase.

“We found out in the third week of January that our enrollment in Nauset was down 3.6 percent,” Kallinick said. “Based on that we can accommodate a 4.5 percent increase. But the health insurance number is an estimate. We will get the (actual) number Feb. 7. It is a big factor in our budget and the school budget.”

The region’s budget this year is $13.35 million. If it were to rise 4.5 percent it would be $13.47 million next year. Kallinick noted that the current projection is an 8 percent increase but the regional committee will be meeting several more times before making a final request.

The elementary schools are also above the 3 percent guideline set by the town. The Stony Brook School is looking at a 12.5 percent increase in costs and the Eddy School is projecting an 11.7 percent increase. The Stony Brook budget was $4,769,887 this year and Eddy’s is $3,454,311. Factoring in debt from various school projects, the total local school outlays should come out at $27,072,368.

The assessment from Cape Tech is much less, a 4.4 percent increase.

In the Nauset system, Brewster’s enrollment is 446 out of 1,000 at the middle and high schools. The town also has 36 students attending other schools through School Choise and 64 at charter schools for a grand total of 546 students out of 1,176 in the region.

Brewster has 51 out of 661 students at Cape Tech.

Brewster’s total tax revenues next year should be $40,452,801. Local receipts are projected at $6,422,960.

Taxes from hotels and motels should hit $1.3 million, an increase of $97,000. Short-term rental taxes are expected to bring in an additional $1.05 million, a 5 percent increase. Local ambulance revenues are $1.079 million, up by $17,000.

Brewster expects an additional $250,000 in property taxes from new growth and a total 8.3 percent increase in revenue from local receipts.

The projection is for health insurance costs to rise 4 percent and pension expenses could leap by 11 percent. The Brewster has allocated funds for a 5 percent increase. While the goal is to keep all town expense increases to about 3 percent, the current actual rate is 3.6 percent, including health and pension. Including projected staffing increases for management positions at the Sea Camp properties, DPW, recreation department and increases in hours, operating expenses could go up 4.9 percent; without the new jobs they’d be up 4.5 percent.

Frank Bridges of the finance committee pointed out that over the last three budgets the schools’ combined share of Brewster’s budget has risen from 50 percent to 65 percent, squeezing other town services.