Bangor voters have an opportunity to affirm their support for two city staples — the library and school district — when they cast their ballots inside the Cross Insurance Center for the first time on Tuesday.
We recommend approving a $3 million bond to help replace the Bangor Public Library’s copper dome roof and the city’s proposed $42 million school budget. These should not be controversial ballot measures: These are fiscally responsible proposals that will, together, help preserve educational environments for all ages.
Clearly, the Bangor Public Library needs a new roof. Leaking water has threatened collections and the plaster work inside, and library staff in October found a “river” flowing down the marble staircases. The ceiling has dropped nearly 3 inches in the second-floor Bangor Room. The copper dome roof was supposed to last 80-100 years, and it lasted 101. It’s time for a new one.
Roofing experts have determined that the best option is to put up another copper roof, not one made of steel. The material has a longer life expectancy than steel, and its aesthetic qualities contribute to the city’s historic district. Bangor’s architecture has seen much modernization in previous decades, and only a few beautiful, old buildings remain. The library is one. We’d like to see its historic integrity preserved.
Through the bond, residents would contribute to a project that must also draw private support to succeed. Stephen and Tabitha King have pledged $3 million — but only if voters approve the bond and the library raises another $3 million on its own, to meet the renovation project’s total price tag of $9 million.
In addition to the city’s library, we hope voters will also support the Bangor School Department’s proposed budget. Total spending is proposed at $41,977,562, which is $738,837 more than the current year’s adopted budget and represents a 1.79 percent increase. The average increase over five school budgets, however, is 0.4 percent.
The district estimates receiving $464,030, or 2.82 percent, less in state aid next year, which does not take into consideration this year’s state curtailment amount of more than $271,300. The school committee and city council have agreed to cut a net 1.3 positions and have found savings in food service, career and technical education, and debt service.
The school district and the city don’t fully know what to expect without a signed state budget — so the district should return any savings to taxpayers if state budget numbers work out differently in the end. Yet officials have put together a proposal that will continue to serve nearly 3,870 students. Voters should maintain a school system that continues to do well academically; it consistently sees a greater percentage of its students meet proficiency levels on standardized tests than the state as a whole.
We hope Bangor residents turn out to vote and cast ballots to support the library and the schools — fixtures that serve the community well when the community backs them.