Media Archive

County tax rate sees increase

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 42, October 20, 2004

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

Preliminary budget increasing 5.8 percent

DOVER-FOXCROFT An early look at the 2005 Piscataquis County budget shows a 5.8 percent increase in expenditures, along with a jump in the county tax rate.

The proposed $3.9 million budget includes an anticipated 15 percent jump in health care insurance for employees, salary increases, the expense of the new county manager and an additional part-time position in the sheriff's office.

And, despite an increase in the overall county valuation projected for the coming year from $1.36 billion to $1.44 billion, sliding revenues may translate into a higher tax rate.

As of Monday, during the first meeting of the county budget committee, the preliminary tax rate is $2.02 per $1,000 valuation. The 2004 rate was $1.82. That represents a nearly 11 percent increase in the tax rate.

Confusion about the proposed use of surplus in the 2005 year and the result on the tax rate dominated much of Monday's meeting. Initial figures showed the use of $532,141 from surplus to offset the tax increase, however. Treasurer Donna Hathaway pointed out that figure was inaccurate. After some calculations, Hathaway said the amount from surplus should be estimated at $157,969.

That confusion also translated from a reduced tax rate ($1.77 per $1,000 valuation) to an increase ($2.02 per valuation), reversing what Commissioner Tom Lizotte had called initially
"a pleasant trend."

County Manager Mike Henderson noted the most significant changes in the 2005 budget as being the 15 percent hike to insurance rates, along with the scheduled salary increases for union, non-union and elected officials. Elected/appointed officials and department heads (not including the county commissioners) will receive a 5 percent raise the second part of a promised 10 percent salary increase established last year. Non-elected, non-union employees will receive a 3.3 percent increase, along with a 2.5 percent cost of living step increase. Union employees are budgeted to receive a 2.5 percent raise.

The county commissioners' office budget is projected to increase nearly 22 percent from $38,378 to $52,260, primarily due to the hiring of the new manager. Henderson's salary is budgeted at $47,500. He was hired to take over some of the duties formerly performed by Carolyn Doore, county clerk, who had been budgeted in 2004 at a salary of $20,912.

Tuesday morning, the commissioners voted to cap their salaries with no increase over the next three years at $9,000 for the chairman, and $7,800 for the remaining two commissioners, according to Henderson. This is a slight increase from last year when salaries were budgeted at $8,291 for the chairman and $7,149 for the others.

A new part-time investigator's position in the sheriff's office was included in the budget at a cost of $15,484. This employee will work full-time for the county, filling in as a part-time domestic violence investigator for the Piscataquis County District Attorney's office at a salary of just under $15,000. According to Henderson, the tax rate may be altered, depending on the final surplus figures. He said the county in previous years has been able to offset the tax increase with between $300,000 and $350,000 in surplus, and that the $157,000 figure appears low.

Prior to reviewing the budget, the budget committee elected Gail Stutzman of Sangerville as chairman and Amber Gahagan of Milo as secretary. Other members of this year's budget committee are: Alan McBrierty of Greenville, Wayne Huff of Monson, Robert Wilson of Monson, Gary Wakeland of Dover-Foxcroft and Bowerbank, Judy MacKinney of Dover-Foxcroft, Dennis Green of Brownville and William Graves of Brownville Junction.

The next budget committee meeting is set for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 26, in the county commissioners' office. The 2005 budget will go through revisions over the next month by the budget committee, prior to a public hearing. The commissioners will finalize the budget in December.

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