SKOWHEGAN — Somerset County residents will get a chance to see the proposed $12,340,408 budget for the coming year at a public hearing beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Superior Courtroom at the county office building on High Street.

County Finance Manager Patrick Dolan said there are no big projects or spending hikes in the proposed budget, which is up $304,705, or about 2.5 percent over the current budget that runs until the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

“The increase is basically related to labor costs, the normal merit, cost of living increases,” Dolan said. “We’ve seen a substantial increase in healthcare costs and the pension plan through the state.”

The budget is a combination of three spending lines:

• $4,863,215 for Somerset County Jail operations;

• $2,249,194 for jail debt service;

• $5,105,817 for Somerset County general government.

“The jail has been budgeted to be a zero line budget in that their revenue will match their debt and they’re able to keep the tax cap at the same level — $4.8 million — so there will be no increase in taxes associated with that,” Dolan said. “If we fill the jail, we can bring that amount right down, which is good and bad. If we fill it, that means more criminals.”

Dolan said the change in valuations for taxation at the paper mills in Madison and Skowhegan have been factored into the proposed budget. Madison’s county tax amount went down by $300,000 because of the change in the valuation and the change in the overall county budget. Madison will be paying about 25 percent less in county taxes than last year. Skowhegan’s share of the county tax, with its own drop in paper mill valuation, comes in about one-half of a percent less than last year.

By contrast, other towns, such as Caratunk, where property valuations are on the rise, will see an increase in county taxes to meet the overall budget.

After the public hearing on the budget, which has been approved by the county Budget Committee, county commissioners will meet in special session to examine the committee’s offering. If commissioners agree with the committee, they will vote it in as the final budget. If they disagree, the package — with commissioners’ changes — goes back to the Budget Committee for a final vote.

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

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]



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