Commissioners formally approve $4.5M county budget for 2019

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — A week after the public hearing for the pair of spending plans, the Piscataquis County Commissioners approved a $4,535,958 Piscataquis County budget for the 2019 calendar year along with an Unorganized Territory (UT) budget of $1,756,657 for the 2019-20 fiscal year during the Dec. 4 meeting.

“There really was no commentary that would cause us to change the figures,” County Manager Tom Lizotte said about the seven-plus days after the hearing.

He said Atkinson deorganizing and becoming part of the UT as of July 1, 2019 accounts for much of the $267,894 (18 percent) increase to $1,756,657 for 2019-20. Taking on the provision of municipal services to Atkinson increases the UT budget by $202,500 (approximately 75 percent of the increase). Without this change the spending plan would have risen by nearly $65,400 or 4.3 percent, which is a fairly standard increase.

Lizotte said the 2019 county budget of $4.5 million-plus represents an increase of $288,844 or 6.8 percent over the current budget year total of $4,247,114. The increase is about twice the typical rise in year to year county finances.

A total of $3,820,541 would need to be raised in taxes from the 19 municipalities for the county budget, up by about $327,000 from the current calendar year.

“As I said last week, a lot of stuff that we knew we needed but deferred is in this budget,” the county manager said, adding that all the spending plan additions will benefit residents of the region.

The proposed 2019 county budget includes a payscale adjustment for union sheriff’s department employees and a 3 percent wage increase for all non-union employees. A 9 percent, $66,000, increase for health insurance has been included in the budget.

The 2019 county budget includes the addition of a sixth Piscataqus County Sheriff’s Office patrol deputy to start halfway through next year, replacing two patrol cruisers for the department, and an annual lease for office space in Guilford to alleviate crowded conditions in Dover-Foxcroft. The telecommunications division of the sheriff’s department has the first of year of a five-year lease for new radio communications equipment.

A position had been shared by the Piscatquis County Emergency Management Agency and the registry probate at a respective four/one day split. Next year the position will be five days with emergency management and the registry would add a part-time, per diem employee.

In other business, Sheriff-Elect and current Chief Deputy Bob Young said a decision has been made to fill the chief deputy position. Young said the announcement should be made during the next commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

“I did go outside of the department, and the Sheriff John Goggin said I should do that,” Young said. “The sheriff said it would be good to bring in some fresh blood, so to speak.”

Young said he and three other officers have all been with the sheriff’s department for over two decades. The sheriff-elect said he likes to promote from within but in this instance an external perspective should be a benefit.

“I think it would be a positive for the community to bring in someone from the outside,” Commissioners Chair James White said, saying the new chief deputy will bring a fresh set of eyes to the sheriff’s department operations.

The commissioners normally meet the first and third Tuesday of the month, but to avoid a conflict with New Year’s Day next month the sessions will be on Tuesday, Jan. 8 and Tuesday, Jan. 22.

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