Bangor residents vote to discontinue voting on school budgets

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) Bangor voters have approved the city's school budget.

In a close vote, they also voted to discontinue voting every year on whether to accept, or reject, the school budget.

Officials we spoke with say they're pleasantly surprised.

School Superintendent Betsy Webb says, "We had a 3.6 percent increase on our budget."

Residents voted 598 to 101 to approve the $46.5 million budget presented this year.

Webb says, "Where we had the need for increases was in special education and utilities."

She says increases in special education needs are being felt across the country, "We have a responsibility. Children are children and if we provide these services earlier more than likely we'll be able to help them achieve despite what, early on, is a disability or a disadvantage."

Officials say the budget requires a roughly a five percent increase for local proptery tax payers.

Webb says, "This is an investment. It's an investment in our future. It's an investment in our workforce. We really have worked hard to be responsible to the citizens of Bangor."

By a very slim margin, voters also chose to not have to vote on a school budget every year.

Webb says, "I was surprised about the results."

Ben Sprague, Bangor City Councilor says, "That one was a little bit of a surprise to me, but the school budget passes by a pretty wide margin every year and it does cost the city some money to hold these elections."

According to the clerk's office it costs the city about $12,000 to hold a budget referendum.

Local voters could reconsider the decision to not vote on the budget, but not until at least three years from now.

Webb "After those three years it would either require either the majority of the school committee to put a question back on the ballot for reconsideration or a petition having 10 percent of the voters that voted in the last gubernatorial election."

Tuesday's voter turnout was just barely above three percent of Bangor registered voters, a low turnout compared to years past.