Kennebec County residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed county budget at two public hearings scheduled for next week.

County officials have put together a budget, that at $13.6 million, is more than 8% higher than the current year’s spending plan.

The county assessment for individual municipalities is based on their equalized valuation. This year, every municipality in the county will see an increase, ranging from 3% in Manchester to 14.4% in Fayette. The only decrease is slated for Unity Township, which is an unincorporated territory in the county.

That spending plan pays the cost of administering county offices like the registries for deeds and probate, some of the costs of the District Attorney and county Emergency Management Agency, as well as the two divisions of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

In this budget request, Sheriff Ken Mason is seeking to add three deputies — two more than usual — in response to the Maine State Police reducing its patrol responsibilities in Kennebec County, adding 19.7% or $408,000 to that budget line of $2.47 million. One would be expected to start in July, the other two in January 2021.

At the same time, Robert Devlin, Kennebec County administrator, said the Kennebec County jail ended the 2019 fiscal year with a deficit for the first time that anyone can remember. To balance that budget, he said, county officials tapped the undedicated fund balance.

For the upcoming 2021 budget year that starts July 1, county officials are seeking a 9.5% — or nearly $616,00 — increase in the jail’s $7 million budget.

That doesn’t include the annual request for funding from the state Legislature to help pay the jail costs. State lawmakers were originally scheduled to take up the issue on the day they ended their legislative session in March, but could not due to public health concerns over large gatherings as the coronavirus was starting to spread in Maine.

To pay for this spending, as well as the range of routine expenses for operating county government, county officials will use $1.6 million in county-generated revenue — fees collected by the registrars of deeds and probate, among others — as well as money transferred from undesignated surplus funds and the designated fund for retirement.

The Kennebec County Budget Committee, comprising municipal officials from across the county, reviews the spending proposals every year.

By law, one public hearing must be held in the northern part of the county and one must be held in the southern part of the county.

The first public hearing has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday in Waterville.

The second has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday in Augusta.

The public hearings will be conducted using Zoom, the online meeting platform. Anyone wishing to attend should call 207-622-0971 for login information.

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