County officials have adopted a new budget that applies $400,000 in settlement funds from a class-action opioid lawsuit to help pay for state mandated medication-assisted treatment for jail inmates at the facility. Above, the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — Kennebec County commissioners endorsed a spending plan Tuesday that increases annual expenses by 11% but requires only 5% more in property tax revenue for the budget year that starts July 1.

Even before commissioners approved the budget, County Administrator Scott Ferguson said he has already started working on the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2024, to get an understanding of the county’s financial outlook.

Scott Ferguson is the county administrator for Kennebec County. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal file

“I have to figure out with all the contractual increases where we’re going to end up and what next year’s budget will look like, because there’s a lot going on,” Ferguson said.

County operations, which employ 161 full-time staff and eight part-time, will spend $19,310,644, a nearly 11% increase over the current year. That money will pay for an additional deputy for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and an additional maintenance technician to help maintain the county’s three buildings — Hill House, which houses most county offices; the historic Kennebec County Courthouse; and the Kennebec County Correctional Facility.

But the taxpayers’ share of meeting that obligation — $14,280,820 — has increased by only 5%. To achieve that, county officials used $1 million in undesignated fund balance to offset extra spending, cut funding for jail medical services, kept frozen unfilled corrections officers positions and held employee benefits at the level budgeted for the current fiscal year.

They also applied $400,000 received in settlement funds from a class-action opioid lawsuit to help pay for state mandated medication-assisted treatment for jail inmates. The program is intended to help people with addiction disorders to curb their cravings for opiates.


In an interview, Ferguson noted the mandate from the state of Maine comes with a price tag of $638,000 but is not accompanied by any funding. While opioid settlement funds are anticipated to be paid out over the next 17 years, payments in future years will be less than this year’s payment.

The changes made to this year’s $19.3 million budget follow a pattern of increasing county spending with varying levels of tax hikes needed to fund the operations. For the 2022 fiscal year, county spending increased 21.85% while taxes collected were up 8.7%; in 2021, spending increased 8.3% and taxes were up 8.45%; in 2020, spending increased 2.73% and taxes were up 2.73%; and in 2019, spending increased 4.41% and taxes collected were up 2.99%.

Ferguson launched the budget process earlier this year than has been done in the past, so that a final vote takes place in March instead of June. In addition, Ferguson and his staff created a spending plan that shows the actual cost of running each department, including the expense of benefits.

While establishing county spending is straightforward, how that’s applied to county taxpayers is less so.

Revenue for the county comes from fees collected from several of its departments, including the Registry of Deeds, and from property taxes assessed throughout the 29 municipalities and unorganized territory in Kennebec County.  The allocation of each municipality’s share is based on the state’s equalized valuation. Across Kennebec County, the amount to be collected and passed on to support county government ranges from $2.1 million in Augusta to $6,751 in Unity Township.

In Kennebec County, the county’s Budget Committee, made up of elected and appointed officials from across the three commissioner districts, consider the proposed budget and offer up revisions before finalizing the document. By law, two public hearings on the budget are held, one in Waterville and one in Augusta. Following that, the budget goes to the commissioners for the final vote.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: