The Bangor School Committee unanimously approved the proposed $56.5 million budget on Wednesday that will carry the school department through fiscal year 2024.
The new budget is more than $3.4 million — or 6.5 percent — higher than last year’s, according to the budget documents. It’s unclear how that increase will affect Bangor’s tax rate, which is currently $20.40 per thousand, because the municipal budget hasn’t been finalized.
The school committee needed to finalize the education budget by Wednesday night so it didn’t delay the city’s budget process. The budget covers the school department from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024.
The school committee was scheduled to approve the budget last week, but asked for additional time to review how an error in the calculations that determine how much state aid school departments will receive changed its budget.
The error means Maine schools will receive $42.4 million more in state aid than originally anticipated. The Bangor department will receive nearly $900,000 more than the school department initially budgeted, according to Maine Department of Education data.
The committee used about half of that windfall to add positions and resources within the school department that either weren’t included in or cut from previous versions of the budget, according to Bangor Superintendent James Tager. Those additions include a history teacher, two educational technicians, a part-time multilingual teacher, classroom furniture, textbooks and custodian supplies. The other half of the additional money from the state was used to decrease the tax burden.
The biggest increase in Bangor’s budget compared to last year comes from a $1.5 million hike in regular instruction and a roughly $837,700 jump in special education. Those increases represent a 6.4 and 8.2 percent increase, respectively, compared with last year’s funding.
The rise in regular instruction costs stem from a $779,793 increase to teacher, substitute and educational technician salaries and a 10 percent increase to employee health and dental insurance premiums, according to budget documents. The department also added a few pre-kindergarten teacher positions and a history teacher at Bangor High School.
The department’s special education budget covers all special education programs including
instruction, speech pathology, psychological evaluations, physical and occupational therapy, occupational and social work services.
Similar to regular instruction, special education salaries will increase by $340,492, and benefit costs will increase $515,743 between fiscal years 2023 and 2024, according to the budget.
The department also expects its number of special education students will increase by more than 125 students next year.
The other major increase to the budget comes from a more than $588,000 increase to the department’s facilities maintenance budget, marking a roughly 10.8 percent jump over last year’s funding. That increase comes from expected increases to natural gas and electricity costs, which are expected to rise by $524,000 and $160,000, respectively.