Penobscot County proposes a $2.3M budget increase
By Marie Weidmayer, Bangor Daily News Staff
Penobscot County is proposing a budget increase of about $2.3 million in 2024, which would bring the total to $29,204,636, with updated employee salaries accounting for most of that raise.
Payroll and benefits account for the majority of the proposal, at $15.8 million. About 17 percent is for services and utilities at just under $3.5 million, while the remainder is for supplies, materials and capital projects.
Funding for the 2024 budget will come from a municipal tax increase of 8.5 percent.
The salary increases for county employees are based on a survey that found Penobscot County paid 12 to 18 percent below market rate. After a review, the county adjusted wages up to 15 percent for each position.
The wage increases were “highly necessary,” County Administrator Scott Adkins said during a recent meeting.
The payroll for the treasurer’s office has a proposed increase of nearly $6,800, while a part time position was removed from the budget.
Employees with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office will likely see a total salary increase of $551,700. That increase comes from the wage study, a cost of living increase and contractual and retention bonus.
The sheriff’s budget of nearly $8.3 million includes $340,000 for body-worn and dashboard cameras and $23,000 for ammunition. It’s an $11,000 increase from 2021 because the cost of ammo has gone up.
The goal is to make Penobscot County the most efficient government possible so citizens get the most bang for their buck, Adkins said.
The cost and funding for the Penobscot County Jail was also discussed, with the 2024 budget coming in beyond the allowed 4-percent increase. An increase of $1.4 million is expected, for a total of just more than $15 million.
The county has budgeted $157,000 for building repairs and maintenance. During the presentation, Sheriff Troy Morton highlighted the issues the jail is facing and how the building is decaying.
The county is in discussions with a host community for the site of a new jail, Commissioner Andre Cushing said. Finding the land on which to build a new jail is an ongoing issue as three spots the county previously tried were denied, Adkins said.
Building a new jail has been a hotly debated issue for years. One failed proposal was an eight-story building at the site of the former YMCA on Hammond Street.