Bangor council resolves remaining budget issues

Posted June 04, 2010, at 10:05 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors put the final touches Thursday night on next year’s municipal budget, resolving a few remaining controversies, chief among them the level of city support for the Bangor Public Library and the BAT Community Connector.

Though councilors tackled more than a dozen “whiteboard” items during their 3.5-hour workshop, funding for the library and the public bus were the two that generated the most debate in the community in recent weeks.

In an effort to avoid an increase in the tax rate, city officials had proposed cutting back on holiday bus services and doing away with the Saturday Mall Hopper route, which would have saved $24,300. The proposal, however, proved unpopular with those who depend on the BAT bus system, who said they need it to get to work and school among other things.

Though the holiday and Saturday bus runs will remain, riders will have to pony up a little more for fares. Councilors on Thursday authorized a fare increase projected to bring in $45,000 more in revenue, interim City Manager Bob Farrar confirmed Friday.

Another proposal aimed at containing costs called for reducing city funding to the Bangor Public Library by $122,000. After a final round of debate, councilors cut the reduction back to $55,000 instead.

In other budget action Thursday, councilors:

• Restored overtime and training funds for the Police Department at a cost of $91,000.

• Added an account clerk position at City Hall for $24,250.

• Added an economic development position beginning in the second half of the year at $40,000.

• Added $1,500 they planned to cut from the city’s annual donation to the Hammond Street Senior Center back into the budget and did the same with $9,050 they planned to cut from the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau’s donation.

Councilors also agreed not to increase fees for the Beth Pancoe Municipal Aquatic Center or establish them at Dakin Pool, which would have brought in $12,000 in income.

Also as part of the goal of keeping the tax rate down, councilors had considered using money from the arena and waterfront reserve funds, but agreed not to do so in the end.

Councilors have been wrestling with the 2010-11 budget since last August.

Many of the more controversial topics, such as proposed 10 percent across-the-board cuts to the Public Works and Fire departments and a big reduction in funding to the library, were laid to rest earlier this spring.

The Fire and Public Works departments convinced the council to agree to alternatives that avoided the 10 percent cuts

Warning that the roughly $45 million municipal budget is subject to some last-minute tweaks, council Chairman Richard Stone said that while the council didn’t meet his goal of holding the tax rate steady, he appreciated the debate the effort brought about.

“I would characterize it as a very frank and open discussion,” he said Friday. “I thought it was great, even though I was disappointed with the outcome.”

Before Thursday’s final actions, the tax rate stood at $19.20 per $1,000 in property valuation, Farrar said Friday. After Thursday’s steps, it stood at $19.35 per $1,000, up 30 cents from this year’s $19.05.

Farrar said the first reading of the budget is set for June 14 and that the budget will undergo a second reading and adoption on June 28.

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