BANGOR, Maine — City councilors on Monday unanimously approved a proposed 2011-12 school budget that will help meet their stated goal of a flat tax rate.
Before an estimated crowd of 50 teachers, administrators and school committee members, councilors approved a $41.6 million budget that was slightly smaller than the last time the council saw it.
Two weeks ago, the City Council asked the school committee to find more savings in an initial draft that already decreased expenses by 1.8 percent.
The initial draft required an additional $350,000 from local taxpayers because of sharp cuts in state and federal funds.
Late last week, Superintendent Betsy Webb presented a budget that trimmed an additional $130,000. Committee members reluctantly approved but cautioned against any further cuts that might erode the quality of education in Bangor.
“I feel that continued belt tightening will get us to where we can’t breathe anymore,” said member Christine Szal.
A handful of audience members spoke Monday urging the council to reconsider and not approve more cuts. Webb thanked the council for asking tough questions and for acting in the best interest of Bangor residents.
City councilors, who by charter must approve the school budget, in turn thanked Webb and school committee members for doing their part to keep the tax rate stable.
“I think it shows great commitment to the financial hardships the city faces,” Councilor David Nealley said.
As it is, the school budget eliminates a dozen positions and cuts from a number of areas including supplies, textbooks and minor capital improvements.
The final step in the school budget process comes on June 14 when Bangor voters will weigh in through a state-mandated referendum process.
Once the budget is approved, school department staff are expected to immediately begin thinking about the 2012-13 year. The budget will begin $663,000 in the hole because of the loss of one-time federal funds, Webb said, and that money now is being used to retain 16 positions.