SKOWHEGAN  — Members of the public will get a chance Wednesday night to weigh in on the proposed $12.6 million Somerset County budget for the coming year.

The public hearing on the budget is set for 6 p.m. in Superior Court, upstairs at the county courthouse on High Street.

Somerset County Commissioners vote during a meeting in Skowhegan on Jan. 3, 2017. From left are Cyprien Johnson, Lloyd Trafton, Chairman Newell Graf Jr., Robert Sezak and Dean Cray. Commissioners will take up next year’s budget proposal on Wednesday. Morning Sentinel file photo by David Leaming

The county Budget Committee will hear public comments and either sign off on the spending package or make changes and deliver the final spending package to county commissioners for approval after the hearing.

Patrick Dolan, the county finance manager, said the $12,618,863 budget represents an increase of 0.9 percent or $115,682 over the 2019 budget, but those numbers could be adjusted before the final vote. He said commissioners and the Budget Committee already have given their initial approval of the budget for 2019-2020.

Dolan said the proposed budget represents an increase of $172,000 in “labor” — wages and benefits for county employees — while also including a $129,000 reduction in capital expenditures for motor vehicles, buildings and anything that is worth $5,000 or more. The budget also represents modest increases in software licensing, along with a $30,000 reduction in revenues to the county Registry of Deeds.

Dolan said last year’s one-time investment in courthouse security, including cameras and monitors, did not need to be part of this year’s capital investment portion of the budget. The budget also reflects a reduction of $11,747 in the district attorney’s budget line, due mostly to a turnover in office personnel related to “a combination of changes” in salary and benefits.

“This is the second year in a row that it’s been kept under 1 percent,” he said. “If you look at all the towns in the area, they’re all increasing by 3 to 10 percent. I think that this is an example of the commissioners being good stewards of the finances, keeping it low. Seventy-five percent of our budget is labor and the majority of those are covered by contracts, which require a minimum of two-and-a-half percent increases. Then you have health insurance costs going up about 5 percent. You take those into consideration and still be able to keep the budget at less than 1 percent.”

The proposed budget breaks down like this:

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

• $2,031,200 for debt service on the construction of the jail.

• $5,724,448 for general county spending.

Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said the county Budget Committee has approved the spending package, paving the way for Wednesday’s public hearing and a vote by the county commissioners.

The commissioners will meet after the hearing. If commissioners agree with the Budget Committee’s spending package, 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 to put its approved budget into effect for the new fiscal year, the commissioners’ budget takes effect on July 1.

“The overall increase is 0.9 — less than one percent,” DiBlasi said Monday. “We continue to keep the budget as lean as possible and still provide the best service that we can. We have been working year to year to year to get the budget tighter and tighter and tighter. The budget this year and last year was right to the bone. The Budget Committee was happy with what they saw.”

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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