Media Archive

County taxes to jump 10 percent

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 53, December 31, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

DOVER-FOXCROFT The Piscataquis County Commissioners kept the 2004 tax increase to 10 percent. Earlier budgets had threatened an increase of 16 percent.

Before finalizing the county budget Tuesday morning, the commissioners heard from Carolyn Doore, county clerk, that revenue projections are increasing $75,000. According to Doore, the county is anticipating $300,000 total in revenue from boarding federal inmates, up from early estimates of $225,000.

In addition, the county commissioners supported a smaller wage increase for elected/appointed officials and non-union employees than initially proposed.

The budget had included a wage scale increase that would impact around 20 non-unionized employees, bringing the minimum wage from $6.82 to $8.50 per hour, in addition to step increases. Also, elected appointed officials' salaries were proposed to jump 10 percent.

Instead, the county commissioners settled on the budget advisory committee's recommendation of implementing those increases over a three-year period, amounting to an hourly increase for non-unionized employees to $7.38 per hour, and a 3.3 percent increase for elected officials.

"I think we heard, loud and clear, from the budget advisory committee and the public hearing that the public is not interested in such a sizeable increase," said Commissioner Chairman Eben Dewitt.

Overall, county expenditures were set for the coming year at $3.6 million down from a $3.7 million proposed spending plan bringing the total increase over 2003's expenditures of $3.2 million to roughly 12 percent.

The tax assessment for 2004 is $2.45 million, down from a proposed $2.57 million. Dewitt estimated this to be a 10 percent increase over 2003's assessment.

The tax rate for 2004 was not set at the Dec. 30 meeting. Last year's tax rate was set at $16.30 per $1,000 valuation.

The county budget goes into effect Jan. 1.

Before approving the 2004 budget, commissioners heard concerns from Probate Judge Douglas Smith, Registrar of Probate Judith Raymond and Registrar of Deeds Linda Smith about the salaries for both registrars. According to Smith and Raymond, the salary set for the Registrar of Probate was budgeted at only $53 more than the deputy registrar in the department. Smith asked the commissioners to consider an alternative salary, which reflects the difference in responsibilities.

'The budget doesn't do a good job at setting up a hierarchy" in the department. Smith said.

Smith, who was set to make just over $1,000 more than the deputy in the Registry of Deeds, also asked the county commissioners to consider fairness and equity.

"To me, this is totally unequitable," said Smith. "I thought it was against the law to treat some employees differently," she added, referring to the difference in salary increases between elected/appointed officials and other county workers. All other county employees received a 5 percent longevity raise in addition to step wage increases in the 2004 budget.

"I don't think I'm being treated fairly," Smith said.

County commissioners agreed, and after much discussion settled on increasing both salaries slightly, bringing Smith's salary from $25,671 to $27,000 and Raymond's from $23,686 to $25,000. Commissioners also increased Piscataquis County Sheriff John Goggin's salary from $44,323 to $45,000.

The commissioners also adopted the unorganized territories budget for 2004-05 with no changes. That budget includes appropriations of $963,290. The tax assessment from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005 in the unorganized territories is $721,385.

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