SKOWHEGAN — A $12.7 million Somerset County budget for the coming fiscal year was adopted Wednesday night after a public hearing and votes to approve the spending package by both the county Budget Committee and Somerset County commissioners.

About 30 people attended, most of them either elected officials or county employees.

There was only one comment from the public: “It looks good,” said Rep. and Skowhegan Selectwoman Betty Austin.

With an added 1 percent or about $126,000 in overlay to cover unexpected shortfalls in property tax revenue, the final budget came in at $12,745,051.

Newell Graf Jr., chairman of the board of county commissioners, said the 2019-20 budget is one of the leanest he has seen.

“The department heads did a very good job on presenting us this budget,” Graf said after the final vote. “We made a few minor changes and it’s probably one of the best, leanest budgets I’ve ever put together.”

Patrick Dolan, the county finance manager, said earlier this week that the $12,618,863 budget, without the overlay, represents an increase of 0.9 percent or $115,682 over the 2018-2019 budget, but those numbers could be adjusted before the final vote. There were no adjustments Wednesday night in Somerset County Superior Court, where the meeting was held.

He said commissioners and the Budget Committee already have given their initial approval of the budget for 2019-2020.

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

Dolan said the proposed budget represents an increase of $172,000 in 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 because the devices already have been installed. The budget also reflects a reduction of $11,747 in the district attorney’s budget line, mostly because of 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 Monday. “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 had approved the spending package, paving the way for Wednesday’s public hearing and a vote by the county commissioners.

“The overall increase is 0.9 — less than 1 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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