Bangor voters will be asked to approve a school budget hike when they go to the polls on June 13.
The city council on Monday approved the proposed $45.2 million Bangor Public Schools fiscal year 2018 budget, which has changed little since it was first introduced by school administrators to the school committee in March. Major drivers of the 2.14 percent budget hike include increased costs for employee benefits, textbooks and special education.
There was no debate before members of the city council approved the budget, but councilors Dan Tremble and Ben Sprague both defended the increase. Sprague cited the school district’s high student achievement despite a majority of students being eligible for receiving free or reduced lunch — 51 percent in 2015, according to the Department of Education.
“We get a phenomenal performance from our students overall for the dollars that we spend,” said Sprague. “It’s a great value, it’s a great investment.”
Bangor residents seem to agree. They have consistently approved school funding increases by a large margin, according to Superintendent Betsy Webb.
The proposed budget, which would start on July 1, would add 25 cents to the city’s current property tax rate of $22.50 per $1,000 of taxable value, according to Superintendent Betsy Webb.
School administrators are anticipating a slight decrease in state aid, budgeting for $16.52 million — compared with the $16.55 million it received this year. If the district receives more state aid than expected when the state budget is approved, the excess would go toward reducing the mill rate, not into the district’s budget, Webb said.
Over the past nine years, the district’s budget has increased 7.5 percent, while state revenues have decreased about 4 percent, according to Webb.
The proposed budget would add three full-time positions, including a new social worker, a special education teacher and a fifth grade teacher, as well as a pair of part-time positions, including an art teacher and a high school science teacher. It would also cut three full-time positions, including a hall monitor and two classroom teachers, as well as part-time speech, occupational and physical therapist positions.
Spending in the budget includes a 4 percent increase in special education — with that department’s salaries climbing 5 percent — and a 1.7 percent increase for regular instruction, which includes, among others, salaries and benefits for staffers, books and supplies and K-12 education transportation costs.
System administrative costs, such as the district’s superintendent and business offices, also total $1.2 million — climbing nearly 6 percent due to increases in benefits and costs associated with technology and maintenance. Another $2.5 million was set aside for individual school administrative offices, representing a 2.7 percent increase.