July 25, 2021

Piscataquis County draft budget 3% higher

DOVER-FOXCROFT – After some fine-tuning, the 2007 Piscataquis County budget draft now reflects an increase of about 3 percent over this year’s budget.

The good news is that Piscataquis County commissioners on Tuesday said they plan no more than a 2 percent tax increase for communities. To do that, they must either reduce expenditures or offset the increase with surplus funds.

After more tweaking, the proposed budget will be presented to the Piscataquis County Budget Advisory Committee for its first review at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, in the county courthouse.

Members of the budget committee are: Paul Breton and Alan McBrierty of Greenville; Paul Suomi, Monson; Gail Stutzman, Brownville; and Amber Gahagan, Milo.

The commissioners voted Tuesday to move the balance of a county bridge and road account set up more than 20 years ago into the surplus account. The account was set up when the county actually was responsible for roads and bridges in organized communities. The inactive account has earned interest throughout the years, and the balance now reflects $135,596.

Commissioners say the pot of money left in the account provides the county with an opportunity to upgrade some projects that have been long deferred.

One of those projects discussed Tuesday was the need to replace the controls on the heating and air conditioning system in the jail. Dave Harmon, jail administrator, said a quote he obtained pegs the cost at $14,074, which is not included in the budget. The system was installed when the jail was constructed about 20 years ago. If a new boiler were needed in the future, Harmon said the controls would be compatible.

“This seems like a good year to attack some of these things,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday.

Also requested on Tuesday was $100,000 for the Piscataquis County Economic Development Corp., the same amount requested last year. This amount, included in the budget draft, includes $15,000 to implement tourism task force initiatives.

The commissioners were asked to increase from $7,000 to $10,000 the amount provided to Eastern Maine Development Corp. which will help serve as the local match for federal funds for a comprehensive development strategy. EMDC must do a comprehensive strategy every five years, and this is the fifth year. All communities EMDC serves have been asked to increase their local commitment.

Salaries were discussed Tuesday in an effort to bring wages up to counties of comparable size. A 4 percent cost-of-living increase is included in the draft budget for all employees. Some employees, however, actually will see increases of up to 14 percent in their wages based on longevity, step increases and education.

This is the year for negotiations with the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents full-time employees in the sheriff’s department and jail.

Negotiations have been on hold, however, because the chief negotiator for the union has been ill, according to the commissioners.

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