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Bangor city council backs school budget, sends it to voters

bangorThe council made provisions to adjust the budget depending upon how much Gov. LePage’s budget effects Bangor’s.

Here’s a portion of the BDN article. To read the full article please go HERE.

The Bangor City Council approved in a 7-1 vote Wednesday the Bangor School Committee’s $43.9 million budget proposal for the 2015-16 school year. Under state law, the proposal now moves to the voters for final approval in a public referendum June 9.

According to school officials, the budget would add 11 cents to the local millage rate, barring additional funds that may come from the state. Since the Legislature has yet to approve a budget, Superintendent Betsy Webb said she is not sure whether extra state funds may be coming.

In preparation for a possible increase in state funding, the council approved a resolution dedicating the first $274,972 to tax reduction. That would cut the anticipated impact on the mill rate from 11 cents to zero.

Anything over that would go into a capital reserve fund for minor capital improvements, facility upgrades, emergency repairs or to reduce future mill rate increases that may result from declining revenues, according to the resolution.

That resolution came at the recommendation of the school committee. Councilor Ben Sprague, who sponsored it at the council, said it was specifically designed to eliminate the need for a second public referendum in the event the state provides additional money after the June 9 deadline.

The proposed school budget is based on Gov. Paul LePage’s budget, which includes an extra $408,813 in state funding for the school system this year. That’s up 2.5 percent from the prior year, though it does not make up for the $1.2 million cut between the 2009-10 fiscal year and the 2014-15 school year.

The budget calls for a 1.91 percent increase in spending over this year. In all, 64 percent of the proposed budget would go for instruction of varying types with 2.47 percent for school system administration and 5.49 percent for school administration.

A total of 80 percent of the budget is for personnel expenses, according to Webb.

“To be honest, all schools are near 80 percent. It’s almost a benchmark that you push for because the single biggest factor in improving student achievement is the quality of the teacher — always has been, always will be,” she said.

Over the past seven years, Webb told the council, the school budget has increased on average by 0.8 percent.

According to Webb, over the past six years, the school system’s graduation rate has climbed from 71 to 87 percent. Its dropout rate has fallen from 6.7 to 2.4 percent, according to school officials, and standardized test scores are in the top 10 percent of the state. Enrollment is approximately 3,900, she said.

Webb cautioned when introducing the budget to the school committee that, with annual budget increases falling below inflation, those academic successes “can’t go on forever.” The school committee approved the budget April 8.

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