SKOWHEGAN — The public will get a chance to weigh in Thursday on a Somerset County budget that’s about $1 million higher than last year’s, largely because of the loss of payments for housing federal inmates at the county jail.

The public hearing by the Somerset County Budget Committee and a possible final vote on the proposed county budget for 2015-16 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Somerset County Superior Court building at 41 Court St.

Somerset County commissioners approved a $7,068,668 budget April 29 that is roughly 16 percent greater than this year’s, in part because of the loss of $500,000 in annual payments once received for housing federal inmates at the county jail. The budget increase is slightly more than $951,000.

The county Budget Committee, meeting in May, came up with its own spending package, which is about $15,347 less than the one county commissioners have approved, according to Budget Committee members Elaine Aloes, of Solon, and Robert Sezak, of Fairfield.

Under the facilities maintenance budget line, the Budget Committee deducted $14,162.76 — $3,500 from repair and maintenance on the building, $2,200 from repair and maintenance from plumbing, and $8,462.76 from personnel services to fund personnel at the amount the department requested, and not the commissioners’ requested amount, Aloes said.

In the emergency management account, the Budget Committee adjusted a 50 percent reimbursement that was figured wrong for an additional $1,184 in revenue, bringing the total proposed budget to $7,053,321.


County Finance Manager Patrick Dolan said the dual budget drafts include $4,685,771 in general county operations projected for the coming year and $2,367,551 in debt service to pay off the county jail. They do not include the budget for the Somerset County Jail, which is capped by the state at $4,863,215.

The jail budget is approved by the state Board of Corrections without input from the Budget Committee or county commissioners. The total budget for the county, including jail operations and a 1 percent overlay for emergencies is slightly more than $12 million, Dolan said.

“Somerset County has gone up on average less than 1 percent since 2006,” County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said. “The thing that skews everything this year is the loss of the federal board revenue tax relief that we can no longer give. The Legislature is debating that bill as we speak.”

The state Board of Corrections said in 2014 that all of the federal revenue at the Somerset County Jail must be turned over to the state to offset the state’s contribution to correctional services and not be used to help pay off the debt from the county jail construction. A Superior Court judge overruled that decision, and the board is appealing the matter to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

DiBlasi said the money was used to give municipalities tax relief by offsetting debt payments on the jail.

“Now we don’t have the tax relief to give, so it’s almost like a double whammy,” DiBlasi said in April.


The spending package doesn’t reflect changes in property valuation of the paper mills in Skowhegan and Madison, commissioners said. Total taxes in Somerset County communities are set using the towns’ share of the county tax, the school budget and municipal spending approved at annual town meetings.

County commissioners will examine the Budget Committee’s offering during a special commissioners’ meeting after Thursday’s public hearing. If commissioners agree with the committee, they will vote it in as the final budget. If they disagree, the package goes back to the Budget Committee for a final vote.

If the budget panel cannot muster a two-thirds majority — seven votes of the 10-member committee — to put its proposed budget into effect for the new fiscal year, the commissioners’ budget takes effect on July 1.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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