Superintendent Betsy Webb speaks to reporters outside Bangor High School in October. Credit: Eesha Pendharkar

The Bangor School Department budget could see a sizable increase next year driven by the cost of updates to aging school facilities and another incoming kindergarten class with significant special education needs.

Superintendent Betsy Webb offered a preliminary look at the school system’s 2020-21 budget Wednesday during a joint meeting of the Bangor School Committee and City Council.

The school department said it has at least $7.5 million in facilities upgrades to do in the next school year, and that it would look to either an increase in the budget or a bond to fund the work.

The projects include upgrades to the electrical system at Bangor High School and work on the school’s roof so it can better handle the accumulation of snow through the winter. The high school also needs new hallway flooring and heating upgrades, Webb said.

The original heating systems at Vine Street and Fruit Street schools also are in urgent need of upgrades next year, Webb said. It will cost about $2.6 million each to bring the heating systems up to standard.

Athletics facilities at Cameron Stadium, located behind William S. Cohen School, are also due for upgrades, Webb said.

“We haven’t been able to host home meets for 15 years,” she said. “The track surface is so broken down that we can do one more season of track practice, but we have to move the sprinter blocks because there are portions of the track that are dangerous.”

The facilities upgrades would happen as a kindergarten class with more intensive special education needs enters the Bangor school system. The current kindergarten class’ special education needs were the primary reason for an increase in this school year’s budget.

“Looking at the incoming kindergarten class, there are approximately 42 students with needs that are pretty significant,” Webb said.

Of those students, 29 will need to be in dedicated special-education rooms — as opposed to mainstream classrooms — 60 percent of the time. To meet this need, Bangor schools will have to hire additional staff next year. Usually, seven to 10 students in a class have that higher level of special education needs, Webb said.

Another reason Bangor will likely have to increase its budget, Webb said, is a reduction in the number of students who qualify for free school lunch because of low income. The drop means that the school department will receive less federal school lunch funding to cover those students’ meals.

This school year, 49 percent of Bangor students — 1,827 — qualify for free school lunches, according to the Maine Department of Education.

“Ninety-two of our students that qualified for economic disadvantage no longer do,” Webb said. “That means we would get less funding for them.”

The school department would have to make up this amount locally, costing the district more than $100,000, according to the superintendent.

Another item that could contribute to a budget increase would be the creation of a school department communications director position. Webb initially brought up the position at a school committee meeting Dec. 11, where parents voiced concerns about the department’s communication with families and the public.