County commissioners to appoint budget advisory committee members in the near future

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — With Piscataquis County government department heads making their initial requests for the 2018 budget — the county fiscal year follows the calendar year — the county commissioners are getting ready to put the budget advisory committee in place so the group can start its work in October.

“This is the existing membership of the budget advisory committee, most members have existing years remaining,” County Manager Tom Lizotte said during an Aug. 22 commissioners’ meeting. “Typically at this time of year we reach out to the members and at your next meeting we appoint everyone.”

Nine members, three for each of the three commissioners’ districts, make up the budget advisory committee and they are comprised of municipal officers, a representative of the unorganized territories and the general public. Lizotte said terms are typically for three years, and each district has one member with a term up for renewal in 2017.

The commissioners will contact each budget advisory committee member from their portion of the region to see if they are willing to serve another year — regardless if their term is up or not. The appointments are scheduled to be made at the Tuesday, Sept. 5 meeting, but can be moved back to Sept. 19 if need be.

“The group last year did a really terrific job, I thought it was one of the the smoothest years I can remember,” Lizotte said. He said the nine committee members bring different viewpoints to the county budget as well as the spending plan for the unorganized territories — which is on a fiscal year schedule — and each individual has a strong understanding of the process.

The 2016 committee was made up of Thomas Carone of Sangerville, William Thompson of Guilford, Vera Davis of Shirley Mills, Mark Kinney of Atkinson, Chris Maas of Dover-Foxcroft, Jane Conroy of Dover-Foxcroft, Luke Muzzy of Greenville, Scott Snell of Big Moose Township, and Terry Knowles of Brownville. Davis, Maas, and Snell all have expiring terms.

Lizotte said an initial budget should be ready by early September and the commissioners will see a second draft later in the month. “The budget advisory committee will begin its work in October,” the county manager said.

The budget advisory committee typically meets in October and November. A public hearing on the proposed budgets is held the Monday after Thanksgiving, which will be during the evening of Nov. 27. From there the commissioners formally vote on the respective 2018 and 2018-19 budgets during a December meeting.

A portion of the county budget is funded by municipalities’ share of the county tax. Later in the meeting Lizotte said a half dozen payments have been turned in so far, totaling about $528,000.

He said Sept. 1 is the deadline to make county tax payments, but from there towns have a 60-day grace period before interest begins to accrue. The county manager said some town officials wait until late October but payments all have been received prior to Nov. 1 in recent years.

In other business, the commissioners heard from Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Capraro.

“We are trying to establish a search and rescue team for Piscataquis County,” Capraro said, saying similar organizations exist in other parts of the state and the country. “There’s a good group of people but there is no designated team in the county.”

Capraro said there seem to be more and more rescue calls coming in and responses are currently made by the Maine Warden Service and nearby fire departments. He said a volunteer search and rescue team would fall under the direction of the Maine Warden Service and “would be a pool of people who are well trained.”

Organizational meetings will be held over the winter and Capraro said the group could be set up by the spring.

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