We, the Kennebec County Commissioners, are writing in regards to the proposed county budget and the upcoming meetings of the county Budget Committee.

We, along with the department heads, have worked very hard to minimize the increase in the taxes needed to pay for the operation of our county government for the coming year, and these efforts have enabled us to keep the increase to under 1 percent.

A significant factor in how much each municipality is required, by state law, to pay to the county government is the state-determined valuation of the property in each municipality. The state annually determines the total value of all taxable property in each municipality. Kennebec County then uses this state data to determine the share of the county tax that each municipality to pay.

The valuations of property in each municipality can change from year to year — some go up, some go down, some stay the same. This year the range of changes in municipal property values goes from a decrease of 1.1 percent to an increase of 4.6 percent. These new municipal property valuations will have a more significant effect on what a municipality has to pay in county taxes than the proposed 0.94 percent increase in the Kennebec County budget.

A decision on the county budget will be in the hands of the nine-member Budget Committee, made up of three municipal representatives in each of the three county commissioner districts. These nine Budget Committee members will review the proposed budget, get presentations from the county administrator and the department heads, and determine whether the 0.94 percent increase is appropriate, or if there is a need to reduce or increase the budget request.

The Budget Committee will also hold two public hearings — one May 23 at 6 p.m. in the Waterville City Council chambers and the May 25 at 6 p.m. at the Governor Hill Mansion in Augusta — where county residents can hear about the proposed Kennebec County budget, and can state their feelings and make recommendations to the Budget Committee for any increases, decreases or reallocations of tax dollars from one part of the budget to another.

The Budget Committee will consider the public comments and suggested changes before determining what should be included in the budget, and at what level the county tax should be set in order to implement the county budget.

We urge county residents to attend either of the two public budget hearings. Your feedback is needed to help the Budget Committee make an informed decision regarding the items in the budget and the amount of taxes needed to implement the budget.

Kennebec County Commission Chairwoman Nancy Rines represents District 2. George Jabar represents District 3. Patsy Crockett represents District 1.