Media Archive

County has no surplus to trim taxes

Article from Bangor Daily News, Saturday, October 30, 2004

By Diana Bowley
of the NEWS Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT - The Piscataquis County Budget Advisory Committee received some unpleasant news earlier this week when it was told the county would have no surplus funds to help reduce the tax commitment next year. Going into 2005, the county expects to have a total surplus of $158,000, too small an amount from which to draw funds to reduce the tax commitment, according to Mike Henderson, county manager.

Henderson, who was hired this fall, said it appears the county has taken more from surplus than it should have over the years.

State law gives county officials the right to retain a percentage of surplus to maintain the county's cash flow and for critical contingencies, and traditionally the county has held back the equivalent of 10 percent of the budget appropriations. Without that cushion, the county would have to rely on large tax anticipation notes.

Without the surplus benefit, the proposed spending plan will result in an 18 percent increase in 2005 municipal assessments for county government, Henderson said. If the proposed budget is approved, the mill rate will increase from $1.82 to $2.03 per $1,000 valuation, he explained.

Along with the surplus revision, Henderson also told the committee this week that the increase in the operating budget from last year to this year was 4.2 percent, not the 5.8 percent announced earlier this month. The budget was essentially "flat-funded" with the exception of salary increases, he said.

The proposed budget expenditures are what the county needs to function, Henderson noted. "If we start cutting now, it will be muscle and bone," he said.

The budget does include a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees. In addition to the cost-of-living increase, wage adjustments are proposed for nonunion employees whose wages have fallen behind union employees.

Appointed or elected officials are budgeted for a 5 percent increase, the same increase given last year, part of a two-year plan to close the gap between unionized and nonunionized wages. Nonunion department heads are budgeted to receive a 3.3 percent increase, the second year of a three-year schedule.

A plan to increase a part-time investigator's position in the district attorney to full time to be shared by the Piscataquis County Sheriff's Department was nixed this week, according to Henderson.

The budget committee will continue its review of the spending plan at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in the county courthouse.

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