SKOWHEGAN — The Somerset County Budget Committee failed to muster the necessary two-thirds vote to override county commissioners Thursday night, meaning the commissioners’ 2014-15 budget becomes law at the end of the month

The vote was 6-4 to reject the commissioners’ budget — but the committee needed seven votes from the 10-member panel to carry the day. They did not receive the required supermajority.

The county commissioners’ budget of $5,859,755 for fiscal 2014-15 will take effect July 1. The spending is $236,060, or just less than 1 percent, more than the 2013-14 budget.

“They needed a two-third majority vote to shoot it down and they didn’t,” County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said following the vote. “They didn’t have the seven votes.”

DiBlasi appealed to Budget Committee members to accept $93,431 in expenditures needed to make up for a shortfall in county employee salaries for both union and non-union workers.

“We need $93,431 more to make it — let’s take what can absolutely live with,” DiBlasi told Budget Committee members. “You asked us to do better and we have done better — now we’re asking you to help us and support the budget.”

In a 4-1 vote June 16, Somerset County commissioners rejected the $5.76 million budget sent to them for approval by the Budget Committee. Rejection of the Budget Committee proposal forced a special budget session June 18, when commissioners passed their own budget, which took money needed to balance the package from surplus funds and did not raise taxes in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Commissioners said $156,000 was needed to cover a shortfall in employee contracts and that it should come from surplus.

Commissioners and DiBlasi later whittled the $156,000 shortfall in county employee contracts down to $93,431, but still to be taken from surplus.

“What the $93,431 boils down to is health insurance, FICA, and all of that — things that we have to have,” Deputy County Administrator Lori Costa said at the time. “The others we can live without or extend if we have to.”

That money, added to the $500,000 to be taken from surplus to offset county taxes, leaves the county with about $1.1 million left in surplus, an amount Commissioner Phil Roy, of Fairfield, insisted is far short of the minimum reserve needed to cover emergencies.

Departments affected by the cutbacks include emergency management, the district attorney’s office, the administration and commissioners’ office, maintenance, communication, deeds and probate.

Cuts were made in court security, reflecting money that did not need to be in the budget because it is 100 percent reimbursed. A compromise with the sheriff’s department to not fully fund a new patrol deputy also cut $54,000 from the funds needed from the surplus, and about $17,000 was removed from tech services by not filling an open position. The original cost of hiring another patrol deputy came in at $125,000. After applying for various grants, the cost to the county of hiring, outfitting and equipping a new deputy would come to $103,722.

The compromise with the sheriff’s department to add a ninth patrol deputy came with the Budget Committee agreeing to add the deputy, but not until January. The budget would equip the position this year at a cost of $70,000.

The request for an additional deputy came as the sheriff’s department grapples with a 13 percent increase in overall reported crime and a 63 percent jump domestic violence cases. In 2013, the sheriff’s department responded to 268 cases of domestic violence, compared to 164 in 2012.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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