The Kennebec County Budget Committee meets March 27 in Augusta to address the significant increase in the county’s proposed spending plan for the coming budget year. The committee reached agreements Wednesday to shave total spending to $23.5 million. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel file

AUGUSTA — After extensive reviews of the proposed budget, the Kennebec County Budget Committee has approved a reduced county spending plan that carries about a 31% increase to taxpayers.

Dr. Tim Pieh, right, who runs the fledgling MD3 program in Kennebec County, listens as the county’s Budget Committee debates continuing funding through the end of the calendar year for the program that puts emergency medicine physicians on the road to respond to serious or traumatic rescue calls. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

Five members of the nine-member Budget Committee reached agreements Wednesday night to shave total spending to $23.5 million and identify additional county revenue of $3.8 million to help offset that spending. Committee members also agreed to reduce the amount to $18.7 million that county taxpayers will have to pay to support functions and services, including the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and jail, the registries of deeds and probate, emergency management and upkeep of county facilities. That reduces to 31.5% the increase over the current budget that taxpayers will be responsible for in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“We made some $600,000 in cuts and revenue enhancements,” said Lloyd Irland, chairman of the Budget Committee and a selectman from Wayne. “It’s good. It may not be enough, but it’s certainly something.”

The decisions come after weeks of public outcry over an estimated 44% increase in what taxpayers would have to pay for proposed county spending. That original $23.8 million budget proposal was about 22% more than the current year’s budget; $20.5 million of that amount would have been raised through property taxes. Committee members responded by delaying a vote on the budget and considering ways to reduce the impact on taxpayers.

Members of the Budget Committee also agreed to provide funding to keep the county’s MD3 program, which puts an emergency medicine physician on the road to provide an elevated level of care in the field, through the end of the calendar year. After that, the Kennebec County Commissioners will have to identify additional funding to maintain the program. With its allotment from American Rescue Plan Act funds, the fledgling program was funded until September.

The Budget Committee had considered cutting the MD3 program to stem the outrage that erupted earlier this year when the county’s budget numbers were initially released.


Irland said as county officials move forward they will have to make county operations more efficient.

“We cannot do this with a couple of evening meetings of this Budget Committee,” he said. “It just can’t be done.”

Irland proposed meeting more often to make that happen.

District 3 Commissioner George Jabar said commissioners agree and think it is a good idea.

“It’s important that we work with the Budget Committee because you represent the towns in the county,” Jabar said. “We are listening, and we are hearing what you’re saying. We know it’s been a difficult process because of the size of the increases. It’s always difficult to cut expenses, but we know it has to be done.”

Jabar acknowledged that this year has been an unusual budget year for many reasons, but said he expects next year to be smoother.


“With your help and the people we’ve brought in over the course of the last three years,” Jabar said, “we’ve made up for a lot of mistakes that have been going on that I don’t think any of us realized were happening.”

County operations are becoming more efficient, and county officials are getting better at identifying expenses of running the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta, which constitutes the largest share of the county’s spending.

By law, county officials use the state’s valuation of property, which has increased 20% since last year, and is different from local valuations. On Thursday, County Administrator Scott Ferguson said there’s no way to know whether that increase in the assessment is due to property values or reflects new construction.

By statute, the Budget Committee reviews and approves the county’s spending plan, and sends it to county commissioners for their endorsement. Commissioners are expected to review the budget when they meet at noon on Tuesday in the commissioners meeting room at 125 State St. in Augusta.

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