SKOWHEGAN — Somerset County commissioners this week approved a $13.3 million county budget that represents a 4% increase from the prior budget.

The county’s budget committee gave its consent to the spending plan Monday and voted to send it to commissioners, who then held a special meeting immediately afterward to approve it.

The 4% increase to the budget amounts to about $511,000.

Of the $13.3 million, $5.9 million is earmarked for the Somerset County Jail, $4.7 million for debt service and $2.7 million for county operations.

The portion of the budget dedicated to paying down debt increased significantly from last year, rising from $1.6 million. That’s because the county is looking to pay off the debt early, county Financial Manager Patrick Dolan said Tuesday. The original repayment schedule had the county paying off the debt in 2028, Dolan said, but now officials are looking to pay it off by the end of fiscal year 2024.

The amount of money raised for the Somerset County Jail also increased, rising from about $4.9 million last year.

For many years the amount earmarked for the jail was capped at roughly $4.9 million, Dolan said, but the county had to increase the cap because of rising labor expenses and the cost of medical services at the jail.

County officials are also using funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act for the sheriff’s office and the communications center, as well as to offset other costs. The use of those funds, Dolan said, meant that there was a sizable decrease to the budget for county departments and services.

Last year that portion of the budget came in around $6.3 million, and this year it is down to $2.7 million.

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