FARMINGTON — Franklin County Commissioner Clyde Barker said  Tuesday that the commission should pay out money budgeted last year for three nonprofit social service agencies.

Barker, of Strong, said he understood Commission Chairman Terry Brann of Wilton and Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington were trying to save the county money.

“What I am upset with as a commissioner is withholding funds from last year,” Barker said.

The Budget Advisory Committee approved $30,000 for Western Maine Community Action, $10,000 for  Western Maine Transportation Services and $1 for SeniorsPlus as a placeholder in the 2019-20 budget.

Brann and Webster have not released the funds. The county has also not disbursed $18,000 of $25,000 approved by the committee for Western Maine Community Action in the 2018-19 budget.

About three years ago commissioners sent letters to social service agencies telling them they would be phasing out funding. At the time, Webster cited reasons such as the reduced valuation of the Verso Androscoggin Mill in Jay, which lowered Jay’s tax commitment to the county by thousands, a shortfall in jail funding, unfunded liabilities and other expenses.

“I think we should pay our debts and start the new year right,” Barker said. “I feel we should pay these things.”

In December 2019, Brann and Webster instructed county Clerk Julie Magoon to draft a letter to the three agencies telling representatives not to apply for funding. Barker was absent.

On Tuesday, Webster said the county used an additional $40,000 or so this year from surplus to lower the tax commitment to towns for the 2019-20 budget. In 2018-19, the county used $185,000 from surplus and this year it used $238,000 from surplus for the same purpose.

Brann said a Western Maine Community Action representative told commissioners last year that the money would be used for raises for employees. They already receive federal and state funding, he said.

Barker suggested that the representative come back to discuss the matter in more detail.

Brann reminded Barker that letters were previously sent telling agencies that funding would be phased out. County taxpayers are being required to pay taxes on services they may not believe in. Some of the agencies’ employees are making much more than many county residents, he said.

“The county commissioners have the authority to spend the money in the budget as they deem necessary,” Budget Advisory Committee Chairman Joshua Bell said last year about the county not giving the agencies the money approved by his panel. “It is not the budget committee’s authority to disperse the funds.”

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