FARMINGTON — A committee of Franklin County selectmen approved a $5.65 million county budget Thursday evening, after adding $14,000 for a restitution specialist at the district attorney’s office.

County Clerk Julie Magoon said that county officials do not know how the approved budget will affect the property tax rate until after the fiscal year is finished and the amount of surplus from the year before is calculated.

She said the commissioners may vote on the new property tax rate at the July 15 commissioners meeting. The current property tax rate is $1.06 per $1,000 of assessed value or $106 per $100,000 of property.

The tri-county district has a central office position that works to allocate court-ordered restitution from those convicted in court to their victims. However, a federal grant that paid for the job ran out this year, and the DA’s office asked each county chip to chip in to retain the position.

The full cost of the post, including all benefits, is about $56,000 and is divided among Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties.

The budget committee unanimously approved the funding after brief discussion on whether in the future, a local person could be hired for the position.

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Robinson said before there was a full-time restitution specialist on staff, each county used its own staff to handle the flow of money from people under court order to pay restitution to victims or crimes or from whom court fees were due.

In Franklin County, the responsibility previously fell to the victim-witness advocate, but the work load involved in collecting and tracking the funds was so high that the two roles couldn’t be handled by a single person. The county then created a part time post that was eliminated when the district received a federal grant to pay for a central restitution specialist.

Robinson said the county deals with large amounts of restitution at once, and noted that on Thursday alone, some $10,000 was collected in restitution payments. The restitution specialist position, he said, would be held by someone trained in bookkeeping. He said if the money for the tri-county position were not approved, the county would still need to hire someone part-time to handle the funds.

“We’re not going to go back to the system of ‘Hey, you have time, you do this,'” he said.

Strong Selectman Mike Pond said he would like the commissioners to research if the position could be a local person hired to work at the Farmington office.

“I believe money that comes from the county should stay in the county as much as possible,” he said. “Even a half a job that we ship away is half a job we should keep.”

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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