County commissioners review drafts of next year’s budgets

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — The first versions of the 2019 Piscataquis County budget and 2019-20 unorganized territory (UT) budget have been finalized as drafts of each spending plan was presented to the county commissioners during an Oct. 2 meeting.

County Manager Tom Lizotte said the UT budget for the next fiscal year shows a total of $1,756,657, up by $267,894 (15.2 percent) from 2018-19.

“The single largest thing about the UT budget this year is the addition of Atkinson, assuming the deorganization process is completed on Nov. 6,” Lizotte said. About 75 percent of the UT increase is tied to the pending deorganization of the town, which would join the county UT on July 1 if a question on the measure is passed by residents via referendum next month.

In a budget summary, the county manager wrote that taking on the provision of municipal services to Atkinson will increase the UT budget by $202,500. Without that change the UT budget would be up by nearly $65,400 or 4.3 percent.

“57 percent of the property in that community is owned by two property owners,” Lizotte said as much of this land has been placed in tree growth and other tax-exempt programs.

Commissioners Chair James White said this fact is what led Atkinson officials to seek to deorganize.

“In fairness to Atkinson, they are leaving the town in good shape for us,” Lizotte said. He said the McCorrison Road will be discontinued and a vote at the final town meeting in March is scheduled to have an article asking to sell the property containing the town sand pile.

The 2019 county budget totals $4,501,221, an increase of $254,107 (5.6 percent) from the 2018 county spending plan of $4,247,114.

Lizotte said the biggest part of the rise from 2018 to 2019 stems from the sheriff’s office. He said patrol division expenses are up by $93,493 (10.3 percent) to $993,053, largely due to $55,000 to replace a pair of cruisers and the addition of a $14,900 annual lease fee for office space in Guilford.

The county manager said the sheriff’s department has budgeted for the addition of a sixth patrol deputy position. The new deputy would start halfway through the next budget year, and current Deputy Tyson Ober is expected to come back from his active-duty military assignment mid-way through 2019 to return the department to a full staffing level.

The sheriff’s telecommunications budget would be up by $28,480 to $668,070, mostly tied to a five-year lease for new radio communications equipment with an cost of $28,800.

The county budget advisory committee has its first meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 10. “I think they should be able to knock that out in four meetings and be done by Nov. 8,” Lizotte said.

The annual county budget public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26. The commissioners could vote to adopt the two budgets at the Tuesday, Dec. 4 meeting.

In other business, White opened five bids for the record management system for the registry of deeds.
“We have had the same records management company for more than 20 years, I felt the time was right to go out and see what else is out there,” Register of Deeds Linda Smith said as requests for proposals were solicited and she and her deputy looked at programs used in other counties.

White said he would open the five bids and publically announce the quotes, but Smith would be looking at each proposal in-depth to provide a recommendation for the commissioners at the next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

“It’s not necessarily the lowest bid gets the contract,” White said, as other factors will be considered. He compared the situation to bids for snow plowing, as the commissioners may hypothetically opt “to go with the company that has the resources to keep the roads open” rather than a low-bidder who only has a single truck.

The per document rate for the record management systems ranged from $2.28 to $4.05.

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