Bangor residents on Tuesday chose to discontinue the annual votes in which they’re asked to approve or reject the city’s school budget.
The 352-347 vote means that, for at least the next three years, the Bangor City Council’s vote on the school budget will be the final step needed for approval.
Residents also voted Tuesday to approve the city’s school budget for the upcoming school year in a 598-101 vote.
“The results on that question were surprising to me,” Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague said of voters’ choice to opt out of voting on school budgets. “But I think they speak to the faith voters have in the Bangor School Committee, superintendent and City Council to put forward and approve a responsible budget.”
The final school budget amount is $46.5 million, which is a 2.73 percent increase from last year, primarily due to increased special education costs.
Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb said in April that the budget would require local property tax payers to chip in about $1.3 million more for the city’s schools next school year than they are contributing this school year. That works out to about a 5 percent increase.
A large portion of the city’s incoming kindergarten class will require special education services, Webb said, which is what caused an 8.69 percent increase in that budget category compared with the current school year.
The increased need for special education services resulted in the need for additional staffing. Next school year, the school department plans to add six education technicians and one resource room teacher at Downeast School.
The Bangor School Committee and the City Council voted to approve the budget before it went to voters.
Under state law, in at least three years, Bangor voters could reconsider their choice to opt out of the school budget approval referendums if at least 10 percent of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election force a vote through a petition. A majority vote of the Bangor School Committee could also force that question before voters.
With 703 people voting, Tuesday’s turnout amounted to 3.1 percent of Bangor’s registered voters.