Bangor City Council backs revised school budget; no change in tax rate expected

Posted Oct. 07, 2013, at 8:53 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor residents will have a second go at Bangor’s school budget in November’s election after the City Council approved a revised version during a special meeting Monday night.

Residents approved a nearly $42 million school budget during the June 18 election by a margin of 1,773 votes in favor versus 406 against. However, that vote came before the state had settled on its biennial budget, and the city still had to hold a referendum and approve a budget based on what was then existing law.

When the state’s budget did come through, it shifted retirement costs to school districts. In Bangor, that meant an additional expense of about $645,000 coming out of city coffers. However, the state budget also provided roughly $645,000 in additional revenue to the school district, which essentially offset the new cost.

Despite the fact that the school budget residents will be looking at in November is $42.62 million, compared to the $41.98 million budget they passed in June, the tax rate will remain the same because of the increase in revenue from the state, according to the city.

Voters will hit the polls on Nov. 5 to approve or nix the budget.

If voters reject the budget, the school department will have to cut $645,000 from its operations in order to fall in line with the budget amount that passed in June, according to Alan Kochis, director of business services for the district.

Some municipalities in the state held special elections during the summer after learning how the state budgets would affect them on the local level, but Bangor decided to hold off until November rather than holding an extra election.

During Monday’s meeting, Councilor Joe Baldacci said the city should be concerned that the retirement cost shift to the city likely will be permanent, but he said he’s concerned the funding to cover it in its first year will not be extended into future years. That would mean the city would need to find a way to fund it or the school district would have to find places to slash.

Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb told councilors during Monday’s meeting that it was “imperative” for the school committee and council to “join arm in arm” when Augusta begins making decisions about what local schools will be expected to fund.

“It’s one community, and both sides of the budget impact each other,” she said.

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