Even though Bangor expects more school aid from the state next academic year, the city’s school budget may still require local taxpayers to chip in more. The main reason is an increase in the school system’s special education costs, as a large portion of the city’s incoming kindergarten class will require special education services, Superintendent Betsy Webb said.
The Bangor School Committee has recently heard presentations on the school department’s proposal for the 2019-20 budget, and Bangor voters will ultimately weigh in on the spending plan at the polls June 11.
Altogether, the Bangor School Department is proposing a 3.7 percent increase over the current year’s budget. That equates to a $1.7 million increase, bringing the total budget to $48.3 million.
The special education portion of the budget accounts for more than half of that increase. With the larger student population needing special education, the school department needs to hire nine educational technicians and two teachers for the upcoming school year, Webb said.
“This is a much larger increase than we’ve seen for special education,” she said.
The school department is required to provide special education services to those students deemed eligible for them under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
While Bangor expects about $923,000 more in aid from the state than it’s receiving this year, the growth in the special education budget — an 11 percent jump that equates to $863,000 — means much of that increase is already spoken for. Under Gov. Janet Mills’ budget proposal, the Department of Education estimates Bangor will receive $19.1 million in state aid for the 2019-20 school year.
The school department is proposing smaller increases for most other categories of the budget, but the school system expects a 6.4 percent drop in the amount of money it dedicates to paying for debt service.
Webb said the budget translates into a local cost increase of 5 percent that will be needed to support the school budget, which amounts to approximately $1.3 million from city property tax payers.
The school department will meet with the Bangor City Council on Wednesday for a workshop to present the school budget. After two readings of the spending plan with the City Council in May, residents will vote on the final budget June 11 at the polls at the Cross Insurance Center.