FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners recommended a $1.5 million sheriff’s department budget Tuesday, up $2,000 from the year before.
Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said he tried to present a flat budget, but increased fixed costs and needed updates led to the slight increase.
The county clerk’s office said it would know by Thursday what the total proposed county budget was. The budget then will be considered by a committee of selectmen county, presented at a public hearing and sent back to the commissioners in a process that is expected to conclude in mid-June.
The commissioners unanimously voted down a proposal by Nichols to bring the civil deputy position under the department’s administration. The civil deputy’s position is now independent of the sheriff’s department and self-funded through fees from delivering civil paperwork.
The sheriff proposed bringing the $53,169 position onto the department payroll and using the possible $10,000 in excess revenue to help fund the department.
Since the fiscal year started in July, civil papers have generated more than $63,000 in revenue. Commissioners, however, expressed concern about how much revenue the position would rake in when it also would mean taking on a new union employee who would have to attend the state police academy and receive benefits.
The rest of the budget, after the civil deputy position was removed, included slight increases that Nichols said he offset by nixing other expenses such as registration for conferences, travel and lodging.
The computer supplies budget also was down, from $3,500 to $2,500. Nichols said last year’s expenses included a lot of purchases in order to overhaul outdated equipment and get better technology.
“Last year we spent a lot of money just bringing the department into the 21st century,” he said.
The training budget was up $1,000, increasing to $6,000. Nichols said last year the money went toward training for investigating drug crime and child abuse and for learning about cellphone analysis. He said this year the money would be used primarily to send a deputy to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
This year, the Franklin County Communications Center presented a budget separately from the sheriff’s department.
The department and the dispatch center separated from each other earlier this year because, according to department leadership, the two fields have grown into separate specialties in need of separate training. The dispatchers are set to move into their new building April 25, across from the sheriff’s department.
Director Stan Wheeler said the $887,120 budget included several rough estimates of expenses because he was unsure what costs will be now that the center has its own budget.
Electricity, for example, was budgeted at an estimated $15,000 because he has been unable to get an estimate of how much power the building is expected to use.
“So many things have been commingled, so I’m giving it my best guess,” Wheeler said.
The commissioners recommended a final budget of $887,120, down $5,000 from Wheeler’s original request, after Commissioner Gary McGrane said Wheeler first should come up with a definitive plan for the reserve money before building the account.
Wheeler said one important increase in the budget is for training, which he asked be increased from $3,500 to $4,500. He said the dispatchers have been trained to minimum state standards over the last few years but added they are in need of further training in order to be prepared.
“Training is one of the most important things dispatchers need,” he said. “They need more than the minimum mandated by the state.”
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 firstname.lastname@example.org