SKOWHEGAN — The Somerset County Budget Committee and Board of County Commissioners breezed through the proposed $12,418,908 budget for the coming year Tuesday night with no public comment and no discussion. With a one percent overlay, or $124,189, for unexpected shortfalls in property tax revenue, the total budget comes to $12,534,097.

The budget reflects an increase of 1.6 percent over the current fiscal year which ends June 30.

The budget breaks down like this:

• $4,863,215 for operations at the Somerset County Jail.

• $2,183,078 for debt service on the construction of the jail.

• $5,372,614 for general county spending.

The tax rate charged to county towns is $2.43 for every $1,000 in assessed property value, including the overlay, spread across all of the towns and plantations in Somerset County.

Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said that spending is tight and she appreciates the hard work the Budget Committee and county commissioners did in making up a budget that serves all the residents of the county.

“I’m delighted,” DiBlasi said following the votes, first by the Budget Committee, then by the county commissioners in separate session. “It was a bare bones budget, as we try to do every year. We’re very happy that the Budget Committee was very fair with us, very even handed — they asked a lot of good questions. The commissioners, as well. They felt they wanted to keep (the increase) under 2 percent. We know times are tough, and we’re delighted that it passed and was not cut any further so that we can continue on and do the things we feel are very important to do for the people of Somerset County.”

Patrick Dolan, the county finance manager, said the overall increase of just over $200,000 includes adding labor and benefits for an additional dispatcher at the Somerset County Regional Communications Center in Skowhegan and a security position at the county building, which includes Superior Court, the district attorney’s office, probate offices, administrative offices and the Registry of Deeds.

“We’ve had more and more security instances at the courthouse — threatening calls and visits related to the probate court,” Dolan said last month as the budget was being drawn up. “Unfortunately, it is a public building, so we have anybody and everybody just walking into the building.”

Somerset County Deputy Mike Cray, of Palmyra, who came out of retirement, took over April 1 as the security guard at the courthouse. He sits at a desk in the corridor at the entrance to the building on High Street and has all visitors, including lawyers handling criminal cases upstairs in court, sign in on a clipboard sheet. The doors to the building at the top of the granite steps across from the old jail on Court Street no longer are in use.

DiBlasi said in April that she is happy with the proposed budget, having run a lean spending program for the past few years. She said the new dispatcher fills a gap in service for emergency calls and the security guard is a welcome addition to the courthouse.

“We needed it down here,” she said of having a security guard for problems at the probate and district attorney offices. “The sheriff kept blowing his overtime budget by having to send a man down here.”

The cost of the building security officer, including equipment and benefits, is $92,671, but the state is contributing $14,185, so the final number is $78,484, DiBlasi said. She said the guard also is on duty when the judge is present and court is in session.

The cost for the new dispatcher is about $66,000, including wages and benefits.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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