BANGOR, Maine — After striking compromises with the public works and fire departments, Bangor city councilors appear to have found common ground with the Bangor Public Library on next year’s budget.
Facing a proposed reduction of about $175,000 from the city, library director Barbara McDade has offered an alternative that would reduce the library’s share from the city by only $55,000. The cuts would result in five unpaid furlough days for all 39 library employees, keeping two positions unfilled and harnessing savings by switching from oil heat to natural gas, McDade said.
Asked if she could live with those cuts, the librarian said, “I guess we have to. It’s certainly better than losing $175,000.”
The City Council will hold a public budget session at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the James F. Doughty School for residents to voice opinions and concerns about the 2010-11 budget.
“We ask the citizens of Bangor to be engaged and be involved in the conversation, but also to keep an open mind to the difficulty of the process and the decisions that must be made,” council Chairman Richard Stone said Tuesday.
Judging by public reaction so far, the council already has remedied three of the biggest concerns about the city’s initial budget proposal earlier this spring — the library and the fire and public works departments.
Stone said he understands the public outcry.
“There are many elements to the budget discussion, but these three have garnered the most attention and each has come a long way in compromise,” he said.
An initial budget proposed by interim City Manager Bob Farrar in March would have raised the tax rate about 80 cents. After meeting with city councilors, a majority of whom wanted to keep a flat tax rate, Farrar resubmitted a $44.5 million budget that included 10 percent cuts in fire and public works, the $175,000 cut to the li-brary and other smaller cuts.
That budget would have kept Bangor’s property tax rate flat at $9.28 per $1,000 of property valuation. With the alternative plans proposed by the public works and fire departments and the library, that rate would increase by about 15 cents. The final budget will be voted on later this month.
The proposed 10 percent cuts to the fire and public works departments were discussed last week and the council settled on compromises from both.
Instead of cutting $329,000 from public works, the department will reduce its budget by about $60,000, which reflects a more favorable contract for roadside trash collection, the elimination of spring cleanup and the elimination of two temporary laborer positions.
As for the Fire Department, instead of cutting $459,000, Fire Chief Jeff Cammack offered an alternative that uses federal grant funding, reduces overtime and cuts equipment reserves in order to make up that difference.
Cammack had predicted that if the $459,000 in cuts stayed, it would have meant closing Station 5 and laying off several firefighters.
The biggest remaining budget item up for discussion could be the BAT Community Connector bus service, which is projected to increase fares and alter holiday and weekend service.