County officials eye $4.8M budget for 2020

Stuart Hedstrom, Piscataquis Observer • November 26, 2019


DOVER-FOXCROFT — A proposed $4.8 million-plus Piscataquis County budget for 2020, along with a $1,804,670 Unorganized Territory budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, was presented at a public hearing on Nov. 25 as part of the process by county officials for developing the pair of spending plans.

“The proposed 2020 county budget totals $4,832,433, which is an increase of $296,475 (6.5 percent) over the current budget year total of $4,535,958,” County Manager Michael Williams said.

After revenues, the amount to be raised by taxes is $4,169,806 or $349,265 (7 percent) more than the $3.8 million-plus in 2019. This amount is split with $2,774,124 to be spread across the 19 county towns and plantations and the other near $1.4 million coming from the Unorganized Territories — an approximate respective two thirds to one third split.

Every town but Willimantic would see an increase in county taxes with this amount ranging from nearly $2,000 more for Wellington to $35,600 total, $31,450 more for Dover-Foxcroft’s $497,846 and a figure of just under $144,000 for Kingsbury Plantation’s $183,370 share of the county tax which is attributed to a windmill project more than quadrupling the community valuation from the previous budget year.

Williams said the budget increase is due in part to a payscale adjustment for employees of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office who are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, with the group and county having reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. Non-union county employees will see a 3 percent wage increase in 2020.

He said the county has budgeted for a projected 10 percent increase ($66,000) in providing employee health insurance coverage through Harvard Pilgrim for all departments and $36,000 for health reimbursement arrangement payments.

The proposed budget for the sheriff’s patrol division is $1,133,500, nearly $180,000 (17.5 percent) more than 2019. Williams said in addition to the payscale change, the increase is largely accounted for by the need to budget $60,000 (a $5,000 increase) to replace patrol cruisers in the vehicle fleet to maintain the rotation.

Williams said the county budget committee recommend $5,000 to place a radio repeater on a Spencer Mountain tower, and he and Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Capraro are working to have this project approved by the state.

The current sheriff’s department budget includes the addition of a sixth patrol deputy, a position that began halfway through 2019. “It’s like a half increase over last year,” Williams said.

A deputy also returned from his active duty military assignment midway through this year to bring the department bakc to a full staffing level. Williams said another deputy has now returned from a work injury.

The sheriff’s department telecommunications division has a budget for next year totaling $703,626, up by more than $56,000. Wiliams said most of this increase is tied to a new 5-year lease for radio communications equipment, with a $25,800 annual cost.

The county manager said the jail budget, the maximum 4 percent allowed by law under the state tax cap has been included, is $1,026,454.

He said Capraro has requested the emergency management agency administrative assistant be promoted to the position of deputy. “There’s certain things she can’t do if he’s on vacation so we have to find somebody from another emergency management organization,” Williams said, saying the adjustment would increase the department personnel budget line by $3,038.

Switching to the 2020-21 Unorganized Territory budget, Williams said the total of a little more than $1.8 million is up by $48,013 (2.7 percent) from the current spending plan. He said the majority of this increase is connected to the state posting the Intervale Bridge in Frenchtown Township to 35 tons from 15 tons, effective by the end of 2019

“We are in the process of narrowing the bridge up,” he said about a temporary repair. “Which will buy us enough time so that we don’t have to do it all in one year, we can do it over three years.”

The county manager said the bridge has one been posted at one lane, but at only 16 feet wide has been unofficially one lane.

Williams said the county budget advisory committee began its work on Oct. 22 and finished on Nov. 14 after four meetings. The county commissioners are scheduled to vote on adopting both budgets during the next regular meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

A formal vote to accept needs to be made by the end of the year and the commissioners could opt to sign the financial documents on Dec. 17 if a decision is not made two weeks prior.