The Lincoln County Budget Advisory Committee concluded its review of the county’s fiscal year 2017 budget Thursday, Oct. 27, approving an $11,112,592 budget, a 1.52 percent increase over the previous year’s budget.
Non-tax revenues are estimated to be $1,456,218, an increase of 2.32 percent. The amount to be raised from taxes is projected to be $9,656,374, an increase of 1.41 percent.
The committee commended County Administrator Carrie Kipfer and Finance Director Michelle Cearbaugh for their presentation and explanations of each department’s budget and the county’s plans for future budgets.
Chairman Bud Lewis said, “I cannot remember (the budget) ever being presented so well, and keeping the increase down to less than 2 percent is remarkable.”
In 2017 the county will prioritize several projects, according to Kipfer, including the following: developing a plan for space usage at the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission building, expanding jail diversion programs with help from Maine Pretrial Services and the Addiction Resource Center, advancing the county’s capital improvement plan, digitizing historic documents and creating new documents electronically instead of on paper, and finding grant opportunities.
In an effort to lower the budget, the county started with its highest expense: health insurance. In 2016 non-union employees began to contribute 10 percent of the cost of both single and family coverage plans.
Retirees who have supplemental health insurance through the county also began contributing 10 percent to their policies. The county currently has 13 retirees who receive health benefits, according to Kipfer.
The budget for retiree health insurance is $71,589, an increase of 5.25 percent. But with revenue of $7,970, a 6,970 percent increase due to the change in contribution, the budget line shows a net decrease of 10.4 percent.
Departments with budget increases include the following:
Sheriff’s office, $2,789,382, 0.31 percent increase.
Communications, $1,250,906, 4.77 percent increase. Reasons for the increase in the communications budget include the installation of a new simulcast system for emergency calls.
Jail transport, $514,385, 12.71 percent increase. The increase stems from the county’s contribution to the purchase of a new van for use to transport inmates to and from Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.
Administration, $491,226, 2.7 percent increase.
Recycling center, $433,998, 1.7 percent increase.
District attorney’s office, $267,469, 0.71 percent increase.
Planning, $249,139, 11.59 percent increase. The increase in the planning budget includes $22,000 for work on the planning commission building and parking lot.
Emergency management, $194,681, 15.57 percent increase.
Courts, $114,787, 8.24 percent increase.
Community programs, $96,339, 4.13 percent increase.
Contingency, $95,000, 35.71 percent increase.
The Two Bridges Regional Jail assessment of $2,420,839 – the same figure as last year – created some humor at the meeting. Committee member George Richardson Jr., of Westport Island, said, “Should we give them any money?”
Lewis, the chairman, said, “I think we should, unless you want to house the inmates on Westport Island.” The committee chuckled at the remarks. Richardson also laughed and made the motion to approve the amount without any further comments.
County Buildings Supervisor Matt Huntley gave good news to the committee, reporting a 5.39 percent decrease in his budget: $349,006, down from $368,880 last year. The decrease is due to savings on fuel and postage.
Recycling Supervisor Tim Richardson said more in-house maintenance on equipment has decreased the need for contractor services and a 3 percent increase in fees for towns outside the county has brought in more revenue.
The county will pay $927,850 in debt service, a decrease of 2.55 percent.
The budget for the registry of deeds is $233,374, a decrease of 1.83 percent. The department projects to bring in more than twice the money it spends, with estimated revenue of $508,223, an increase of 27.69 percent.
The budget for the probate court is $202,797, a decrease of 4.02 percent. The budget for liability insurance and workers’ compensation totals $191,825, the same as last year.
The budget committee also approved a $218,000 to go into reserve accounts, a decrease of 6.44 percent.
Although the budget has been approved by the committee, the next step before final approval of the budget is the adoption of the budget by the commissioners.
The budget committee made no changes in the proposed budgets presented throughout the workshops. The budgets were approved as they were presented, but not without questions asked by the committee and answered by the county administrator, finance director, and commissioners.
The commissioners’ deadline to approve the budget is Dec. 20.