FARMINGTON — Franklin County Commissioners Thursday made several adjustments to the $6.1 million 2016-2017 budget figure approved by the county’s budget advisory committee last week, slightly raising the total of the budget.

The adjustments made at the commissioners meeting resulted in a total budget of $6,114,029, $13,455 more than what was approved by the budget committee at its June 22 meeting.

The budget committee will vote on Thursday’s adjustments at a meeting that has not yet been set. The committee may override the changes made by commissioners with a two-thirds majority vote. The total approved by the committee at the meeting will be the final 2016-2017 budget for the county.

Aside from the adjustments, commissioners discussed what options they had for providing a two-percent cost of living adjustment to the wages and salaries of non-union county employees. The budget committee voted to eliminate the cost of living increase from the budget at their meeting. County Clerk Julie Magoon told commissioners that they had the ability to change wages so long as they stayed within the budget approved by the committee.

Commissioners at their July 5 meeting will discuss budget adjustments that would free up the $25,000 needed to implement the increase.

Included in the commissioners’ changes were three increases in the county’s contributions to social service agencies that serve Franklin County residents, and a decrease to the Franklin County Sheriff’s department.

Commissioners voted to fund Tri-County Mental Health at $5,000, down $15,000 from the organization’s request. The budget committee voted to cut all funding for Tri-County Mental Health.

Commissioner Charlie Webster moved for the $5,000 contribution because while he believes the county at some point needs to phase out funding nonprofit organizations, it would be unfair to cut them down to zero without any warning.

Commissioners also voted to fund the Greater Franklin County Development Council at $42,000, an increase from the $20,000 approved by the budget committee. The commissioners approved allocating $33,000 to the Western Maine Community Action Program, an increase of $3,000 over the budget committee’s figure.

Discussion at the budget committee meeting and Thursday’s commissioner’s meeting focused heavily on the program grants asked for by 11 agencies, which ask the county for some level of funding annually.

The two commissioners at Thursday’s meeting were divided by a philosophical difference divided on whether the county should continue to provide funding for the agencies.

Webster, a Republican, said the residents he represents can’t afford rising property taxes and said that cutting down such grants would be a good way to keep budgets lean.

“What is the purpose of county government? I don’t think it’s providing funding for all these services,” Webster said.

However, Gary McGrane, a Democrat, was an advocate for the agencies, stating that with the federal and state grants the organizations receive they’re bringing money into the county which benefits residents by providing free or affordable services.

“I see these agencies working as an economic engine for Franklin county,” McGrane said. In reference to Tri-County Mental health he said, “It’s going to cost us a heck of a lot more money to incarcerate an individual (with a mental illness) than to use an outside resource.”

Commissioners also voted to decrease a line item in the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department by $16,542 The decrease comes after a new one year contract was reached with the county’s patrol deputies, the contract includes a new healthcare plan which is expected to save the county $16,542.

Commissioner Clyde Barker was absent from Thursday’s meeting due to a family emergency.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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