BANGOR, Maine — Barring any surprising changes, residents are likely to see their property taxes increase by nearly 5 percent in the next fiscal year.
City officials say the mill rate likely will increase by around $1, bringing property taxes to $21.80 per thousand dollars of valuation. Still, that’s down from the 7 percent, $1.50 mill rate increase the city would have seen under the initial proposed budget.
Five members of the Bangor City Council sat down Wednesday night to weed through a second round of suggested cuts to the city’s expenses, but most additional cuts didn’t receive much support.
Bangor International Airport slashed its budget by about $314,000 to close a looming budget shortfall. That was done largely through reduced marketing spending and the elimination of five positions, on top of the 25 jobs the airport cut earlier this year. However, some of those laid-off employees were brought back after United Airlines announced it would be bringing service back to Bangor, according to City Manager Cathy Conlow.
Those airport reductions don’t affect the city’s property tax rate because the airport is funded out of the city’s enterprise fund. However, if the airport hadn’t closed its budget gap, the city likely would have had to fund the difference out of the general fund, which would have boosted tax rates.
On the municipal side, councilors backed the elimination of one position, cutting personnel costs by $56,000. That’s on top of the $580,000 reduction plan Conlow presented to the council late last month.
Other suggestions made Wednesday night fell flat. One would have gotten rid of the city’s police dogs — that would have saved about $30,000, but with the city contending with a drug problem, Police Chief Mark Hathaway was resistant to the idea. Another rejected proposal would have gotten rid of school crossing guards. Still another idea would have changed city crosswalks to two parallel lines rather than diagonal hash marks.
Councilors did, however, give Republic Parking the go-ahead to extend the hours of the Pickering Square parking garage to 1 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays starting in July. It had been a longstanding complaint that the garage’s limited hours left some people’s vehicles trapped inside after a night on the town.
With downtown parking at a premium on these nights, councilors were supportive of the change, especially since the added costs are covered through a permitting fee increase and won’t increase the tax rate.
The full council will hold a first reading of the budget during its Monday, June 9, meeting. The budget they’ll see at that point will be the initial budget proposed by City Manager Cathy Conlow, but will be amended to include all the reductions and changes they’ve made over the past month or so.
The council makes its final vote on the budget on Monday, June 16.