FARMINGTON — The Franklin County budget committee approved a $6.56 million county budget Thursday night after some debate over funding for nonprofit social services.

The budget represents a roughly five percent increase over the current $6.21 million budget and includes across the board wage increases for employees of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

It still needs approval from county commissioners, two of whom have said they do not support the budget committee’s funding of nonprofit social services. Unanimous agreement by the three county commissioners are needed to make any changes to the budget.

It was approved 8-1 by the budget committee, with Bob Luce voting against the budget.

Some committee members expressed concerns related to funding for nonprofit social services, which have been cut by $5,000 from the current budget, but are down by more than $100,000 from two years ago.

Some county commissioners have also said they plan to completely eliminate county funding for nonprofit groups like Western Maine Community Action and Western Maine Transportation, which provide social services for county residents, by next year.

On Thursday, budget committee members led by Mike Pond questioned how such groups are spending the money the county gives them.

Pond said he has heard people wondering what the salaries are for those who work at the nonprofit agencies and said in the future the groups should present concrete plans to the county on how they plan to spend the money they ask for.

“I would like to see something tied to this money saying, ‘You have to do this in order to receive this money,'” Pond said. “So many times I hear arguments that they pay too much and there are too many benefits. On the other side, I hear from the actual group, ‘If I had that money, I could do this.'”

Pond also criticized Western Maine Community Action, a Wilton-based nonprofit that asked the county for $30,000 this year, saying the group still has $10,000 the county allotted them last year that hasn’t been used.

Bill Crandall, program manager for housing and energy services at WMCA, was at Thursday’s meeting and apologized to the committee. He said the money is needed but because of staffing changes and a state government shut down of certain services, the agency hasn’t yet billed the county.

In other discussion, committee member Travis Pond made a motion to reduce the county’s budget for county commissioners, saying they shouldn’t be compensated if they refuse to sign warrants for paying the county’s bills.

Pond was referencing a statement by District 2 Commissioner Charlie Webster, who has said he won’t sign warrants to pay nonprofit groups at the levels the budget committee is seeking.

While the committee approved $61,200 for nonprofits Thursday, commissioners have argued it should be lower — at $42,450.

“I think it’s a problem if one of the county commissioners won’t sign a warrant for any pay he doesn’t agree with himself,” Travis Pond said. “I don’t think they should be compensated if that’s the case.”

Webster was not at Thursday’s meeting but the other two commissioners present, Terry Brann and Clyde Barker, said they would not hold up warrants because of the extra funding for the groups. After their statements, Pond revoked his motion.

“I would be diplomatic about it and expect all the commissioners would sign the warrants,” said Brann, who added that he thought Webster’s statement was made “in frustration.”

Commissioners will consider the budget Tuesday. While total expenditures are up about $340,000, the amount of money to be raised from taxation is expected to increase by less than that, at around $268,399.

The impact on taxes will be determined by individual communities in the county, each of whom are expected to contribute to the county budget based on their property valuations.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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