Bangor still trying to trim budget, reduce city rate

Posted June 24, 2010, at 11:12 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A few last-minute budget adjustments could further trim the city’s tax rate from estimates that were established earlier this month.

City councilors will vote next Monday on whether to accept a proposed 2010-11 municipal budget that is expected to hover somewhere around $45 million.

Most of the major budget issues were hammered out earlier this month. Some of the more controversial items included changes to the BAT bus system, reducing contributions to the Bangor Public Library and proposed 10 percent cuts to the fire and public works departments. In all instances, the City Council agreed to compromises.

In the last couple of weeks, though, city staff has developed a short list of further reductions to the budget that could reduce the tax rate from $19.35 to $19.20. The current municipal tax rate is $19.05, which includes the municipal share, the school department’s share and Bangor’s share of the Penobscot County budget.

Two of the most recent reductions came from favorable bids, one on road salt for the winter months, the other with the city’s insurance premiums. Other changes include shifting some reserve funds and using money from the arena fund to pay back loans to build new barns at Bass Park.

Councilors were on board with all of the last-minute options, but the full budget will not be adopted until the regular council meeting of June 28.

Council Chairman Richard Stone, who had hoped the city would hold the tax rate steady, said he has been pleased both with the level of discussion and with the compromises that have resulted.

After initially suggested cuts in excess of $150,000 to the library, the council settled on a reduction of $55,000. Instead of cutting holiday and Saturday service on one of the city’s bus routes, the council agreed to impose only a modest fare increase.

Instead of cutting 10 percent from their budgets, the fire and public works departments persuaded the council to agree to alternatives that avoided deep cuts and reductions in service. Councilors also agreed not to increase fees for the Beth Pancoe Municipal Aquatic Center or establish them at Dakin Pool, two things that originally were proposed.

Additionally, councilors had considered using money from the arena and waterfront reserve funds to offset projected revenues, but agreed not to do so in the end.

Other changes that were made earlier this month included restoring overtime and training funds for the Police Department at a cost of $91,000, adding an account clerk position at City Hall for $24,250, and adding an economic development position beginning in the second half of the year at $40,000.

Stone said there could be one or two minor items or changes discussed next Monday, but he was hopeful the budget would pass unanimously.

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