Approving Bangor school budget is a no-brainer

Jeff Barnes of Bangor leaves the voting booth in June 2009 after marking his ballot  at the Bangor Civic Center polling station. Bangor residents were voting on a $42 million school budget referendum that summer. It was the second year that city voters have had the final say on the school budget. The budget was accepted in Bangor by a vote of 463-123.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Jeff Barnes of Bangor leaves the voting booth in June 2009 after marking his ballot at the Bangor Civic Center polling station. Bangor residents were voting on a $42 million school budget referendum that summer. It was the second year that city voters have had the final say on the school budget. The budget was accepted in Bangor by a vote of 463-123. Buy Photo
Posted May 29, 2012, at 3:47 p.m.

The Bangor School Department’s proposed 2013 budget is not controversial. It puts forward no new costly programs and makes personnel cuts mainly through attrition.

In the end, the overall proposed budget of $41,238,725 is 0.34 percent less than last year’s budget, but Bangor residents’ contribution would be about 1.9 percent more. That’s because the School Department is scheduled to receive 5 percent less in state and federal revenue.

The small increase for Bangor residents means someone owning a $100,000 home would see an annual tax increase of $15. For some perspective, the budget is $214,000 less than the one passed in 2009, and the average increase over the last four budget years is 0 percent.

School officials have demonstrated the will to trim: The original budget would have put Bangor residents’ share at a 4.5 percent increase, but they focused on reducing it to 1.9 percent.

Cuts come from decreased amounts for vocational education and reduction in staffing to match enrollment. Plus, additional funds will be taken from the undesignated fund balance and a federal Qualified School Construction bond will allow the department to eliminate $200,000 in minor capital improvements.

Some people have protested the slight increase, which totals $372,000, but they are missing the greater context. This is a reasonable budget. It should receive support from the Bangor City Council in its second and final reading on Wednesday night.

Residents are scheduled to go to the polls June 12 to vote whether to approve it. Though voter turnout has been low, the budget has been approved overwhelmingly in the last couple years.

Council members, and ultimately voters, should keep in mind they are supporting a school system that is doing well academically. It consistently has seen a greater percentage of its students meet proficiency levels on standardized tests than the state as a whole. Higher levels of achievement translate into a more skilled work force for the region.

The academic achievement has happened despite the system’s demographics. About half of students receive free or reduced lunch, up from 28 percent four years ago, according to Superintendent Betsy Webb. And administrative costs make up 2.4 percent of the budget, compared with the state average of 4 percent.

If the biggest complaint some people have about the school system is a modest tax increase, that’s a good sign.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/29/opinion/approving-bangor-school-budget-is-a-no-brainer/ printed on July 31, 2014