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The city of Bangor would buy body cameras for its police officers, provide more outreach to the homeless and invest more than $4 million in its infrastructure under a budget proposal that the city council is now considering for next year.
The proposal would raise the city’s municipal and school spending to $108.8 million, up from $100.8 million this year, due largely to increases in wages, insurance and retirement costs, according to a copy of the proposed budget available on the city website.
The proposed spending would be offset by just $50 million in revenue from sources other than property taxes, including revenue sharing from the state and excise taxes from vehicle registrations.
That leaves about $58.7 million that would have to be covered by local taxpayers under the proposal. It would lift the city’s annual property tax rate to an estimated $23.84 per $1,000, up from the current rate of $22.95 per $1,000.
That means the owner of a home with the median Bangor value of $151,100 would pay $3,602 in annual property taxes under the new rate, or $134 more than this year.
But that final tax rate could change depending on what two-year budget the state Legislature eventually passes, as well as what budget the city passes, according to City Council Chair Sarah Nichols.
Right now, Gov. Janet Mills’ first budget proposal includes a slight increase in the amount of state revenue that’s projected to flow to Bangor. The governor has proposed lifting the share of state income and sales tax revenue that goes to Maine towns and cities from 2 to 3 percent over the next two years, but that’s still shy of a 5 percent threshold set in Maine law that many cities have called on the state to honor.
“I’m hoping the Legislature does the right thing in regard to municipal revenue sharing,” Nichols said. “It has really affected municipal property taxes. Hopefully that gets resolved soon in the favor of property tax payers.”
The Bangor budget proposal was drafted by City Manager Cathy Conlow, and city councilors have discussed it during several workshops this spring.
The city expects to pay $696,393 more in employees’ health insurance premiums next year.
The new spending plan, which would take effect July 1, would also include about $175,000 for the Bangor Police Department to equip its officers with body-worn cameras, as well as $112,500 to help the department pay to recruit new officers. It would raise $78,725 for the creation of a new homeless outreach case worker position.
It would include $185,000 for a new ambulance and additional funding to improve the technology of the Community Connector bus system, which has been the subject of an ongoing study. It would also include money to replace seven city buses, but those funds would come from grants, reserve funds and other communities, according to the budget proposal.
The proposed budget also would fund a number of infrastructure improvements, including $1.6 million for paving and sidewalks, $75,000 for the replacement of the Chapin Park playground and another $1.6 million that would come out of the city’s downtown tax-increment financing district to reconstruct the pedestrian bridge over the Kenduskeag Stream.
Councilors are scheduled to hold at least three more budget workshops in June before holding a final vote on the municipal side of the spending proposal, probably during their regular meeting on June 24. While individual councilors have raised some questions about the budget proposal, they have not yet made any decisions about adding or cutting spending from it, Nichols said.
While the council has final say on the city budget, residents will have to vote for the school spending plan on June 11. The proposed $1.7 million increase on that side of the budget has partly been driven by an increase in special education costs.
Watch: Carolyn Fish talks about being homeless in Bangor for years