The Bangor City Council passed a new $106.97 million budget Monday night that was up 2.4 percent from this year’s spending plan.
The council did not specifically add $300,000 to the spending plan to equip police officers with body cameras, a proposal that councilors have been discussing in recent weeks. But the new budget does include $500,000 in unreserved funds that could be used to start a camera program or make other reforms sought by local racial justice advocates, according to Council Chair Clare Davitt.
The new 2020-2021 budget includes $57 million for the city’s expenses and $49.96 million for the Bangor School Department.
It is expected to increase the city’s total property tax rate by an estimated 0.9 percent, from $23 per $1,000 of valuation to $23.20 per $1,000, according to Bangor Finance Director Debbie Laurie. At that rate, the owner of a home with the median Bangor value of $157,000 would pay $3,642 in taxes next year, up $31 from this year’s $3,611.
Councilors did not end up specifically reserving any funds in next year’s budget for police body cameras after postponing a similar decision last year.
But the city could still end up starting such a program in the coming year with the $500,000 in unreserved funds, according to Davitt. Officials are now collecting input from local racial justice advocates on other programs or training that could complement the adoption of police body cameras.
The city hopes to have a more precise cost estimate for the cameras by next month, Davitt said.
City officials also have lingering questions about how to securely launch such a program in a way that protects the privacy of people caught on camera, but they have so far received little guidance from the state attorney general’s office. That’s one reason why the approval of the program has been delayed even though numerous councilors have said they support adopting body cameras, according to Davitt.
The budget passed on Monday night with little discussion by the councilors, who have been helping city staff to put it together over the last few months.
Numerous city departments have had to contend with lower-than-expected revenues as a result of economic challenges stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated that the Bangor budget did not have funding for body cameras. It does have unreserved funds that could be used to start a body camera program in the next fiscal year.