Piscataquis budget scaled back further

Posted Dec. 02, 2008, at 11:36 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Piscataquis County commissioners made about $24,000 in additional cuts to the proposed 2009 county budget Tuesday in an attempt to reduce the assessments to the communities.

“We are down to the point of nickels and dimes,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday. “The only way you can save a lot more money is by reducing positions,” he said, adding he didn’t think this is the year to do that.

More than $130,000 was cut from the budget in previous sessions, according to County Manager Mike Henderson.

A final $4.1 million spending plan is expected to be adopted on Dec. 23.

When the proposed plan was first developed, a 20 percent increase was budgeted for liability insurance, but the cost actually dropped by 5 percent, Henderson reported Tuesday. Although the decrease in cost reflected in the jail does not affect the assessments because of the jail consolidation, the decrease for the remainder of the departments will reduce the total assessment by $11,800, he said.

The commissioners initially had included $28,500 in the budget for the purchase of a new police cruiser but eliminated it during an earlier budget session. But on Tuesday they embraced Sheriff John Goggin’s recommendation that counterdrug funds received by his department be used to purchase a vehicle.

Also Tuesday, the commissioners scaled back the proposed mileage reimbursement of 44 cents a mile to the current 40 cents a mile; eliminated the $1,000 budget for Heart of Maine Resource Conservation and Development; reduced from $10,000 to $8,500 the county’s contribution to the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District; reduced from $10,000 to $9,000 the contribution to the Eastern Maine Development Corp.; reduced the gasoline account from a budgeted $31,000 to $25,000; and reduced contingency to $50,000.

Commissioner Eric Ward wondered aloud whether there might be some overlap of services provided by the soil and water conservation district, the Heart of Maine and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Regarding the latter, the county funds the cost of a secretary, provides the space to the organization, and pays for the utilities and some supplies. “I do think there may be places to be cut,” Ward said.

“We’ve never had the Extension, soil and water, and Heart of Maine Resources all sitting in the same room having that discussion with them, and that’s probably what we should do,” Lizotte said.

Brownville Town Manager Sophia Wilson, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said her community has worked with Extension educator Roger Merchant on community development issues. Through his efforts, the town has received a few hundred thousand dollars in federal funds to help create the research to inform the town’s decision-makers, she said.

Commissioner Fred Trask agreed that a joint meeting should be held. “We’re controlling the purse strings. We can’t have three people doing the same thing,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Goggin also touched upon the duplication of efforts, but at the state level. “There is so much duplication going on in the state agencies that it almost makes me want to retch when I hear state agencies saying that they’re looking for places to save money,” he said. “If they put together some level-headed county people with municipal people and sent them to Augusta looking for ways to save money, they could save the taxpayers in the state of Maine millions of dollars.”

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