Media Archive

Piscataquis County budget scrutinized

Article from Bangor Daily News, Tuesday, November 30, 2004

By Diana Bowley
of the NEWS Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT - Municipal officials expressed their concerns Monday night about the proposed 2005 Piscataquis County budget that will require an 18.5 percent hike in municipal assessments.

The proposed expenditures for 2005 amount to $3.68 million, which will be offset by $748,000 in projected revenues.

Speaking as a Dover-Foxcroft resident, Brownville Town Manager Sophia Wilson said the increase was "extremely high" and faulted the commissioners for adding a county manager's position at an annual cost of $47,000. She noted that the county manager was expected to take some of the burden from the commissioners, yet their salaries remained intact.

"I think we really need to be looking at how we can reorganize to save money," Wilson said.

In response, Commissioner Tom Lizotte reminded Wilson and other town officials that the goal is to have Mike Henderson, the new county manager, assume the county treasurer's functions, which would reduce that account. He noted that the salaries Piscataquis County commissioners received were among the bottom one-third of commissioners in the state, that the county manager was the lowest paid in the state by about $10,000 and that Piscataquis County Sheriff John Goggin received next to the lowest salary of his cohorts in the state.

Lizotte agreed that the 18.5 percent increase was difficult but the county had no excess surplus funds this year with which to reduce the tax commitment. Expenditures were reduced but he said salaries and benefits amounted to about 70 percent of the budget.

Some officials took umbrage with the fact the county provides 100 percent health coverage for the majority of its employees while others urged the commissioners to investigate the inequities between county government and unorganized territories.

Goggin noted that the municipalities and the county always get criticized about spending, but no one in the audience asked how or why $30 million was misplaced at the state level. No one has demanded Gov. John Baldacci or Sen. Paul Davis tell them where the $30 million in taxes went, he said. "If I lost that amount of money you people would have my head on a silver platter," Goggin said.

Monson Town Manager Judy Doore told the commissioners and county officials not to lose sight of the recent property tax cap fight. "What we just faced is not going away, it's only hiding," she said. "We all have to find some way to do business some other way than we're doing it now."

Piscataquis County commissioners will review the budget again and adopt a spending plan by year's end.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.