June 24, 2018
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In support of Bangor library, schools budget

Carter F. McCall | BDN
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Paul Farnham sits in the popular fiction reading room of the Bangor Public Library on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The room is one several in the library that may be redesigned or repurposed, said Library Campaign Director Kate Villa.


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.

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