SKOWHEGAN — Somerset County commissioners Tuesday night breezed through a unanimous vote to approve the county Budget Committee’s $12,340,408 budget for the coming year. The 4-0 vote, with Fairfield Commissioner Phil Roy absent, came after a brief public hearing. There were no comments from the public.

The Budget Committee had approved the budget going into Tuesday night’s public hearing and county commissioners’ meeting.

“This is the leanest, most bare-bones budget we’ve ever had,” County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said. “It’s totally transparent. It’s an attempt to keep the budget in line with the economics of the area. That’s my concern, always.”

County Finance Manager Patrick Dolan said there are no big projects or spending hikes in the 2016-17 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.

“This is a very solid budget,” Commission Chairman Newell Graf said after the vote. “There’s no frills in this. It’s really a very tight budget.”

Dolon and Graf said the modest increase in spending comes mostly from costs related to labor, normal merit and cost-of-living increases and insurance.


The budget for 2016-17 breaks down as follows:

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

• $2,249,194 for jail debt service;

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

Dolan said the jail has been budgeted to be a zero line budget, in that jail revenue will match jail debt, allowing the county to be able to keep the tax cap at the same level — $4.8 million — so there will be no increase in taxes.

“The jails are under control of the counties now,” he said. “We still receive financing from the state, but there is no Board of Corrections to control it as before. The BOC is dissolved.”


Dolan said if the jail is occupied to capacity, that will mean additional revenue to offset the tax burden.

“What would happen is the money will be used to reduce your debt payment amounts, which in turn will reduce taxes,” he said. “You can’t use it for normal government operations, but you can use it to pay off the debt.”

Inmates from other Maine counties are housed at the Somerset County Jail by special contract with the county or the correctional facility the inmate comes from, not a daily rate. Federal prisoners are boarded on a set daily rate of about $90 per day.

Dolan also said the change in valuations for taxation at the paper mills in Madison and Skowhegan have been factored into the budget. Madison’s county tax amount decreased by $300,000 because of the change in the valuation and the change in the overall county budget, he said. 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 0.5 percent less than last year.

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

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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