DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Department heads were credited for reining in costs for 2010, but Piscataquis County commissioners on Tuesday still found a few places to reduce the draft budget.
While a tentative document, the $3.99 million spending plan reflects about a 14 percent decrease from 2009, according to Phyllis Lyford, the county’s finance administrator. Less revenue is anticipated, including a loss of about $40,000 each for the boarding of federal prisoners and deeds, she noted Tuesday.
“All of the departments did a great job [in keeping costs down],” County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte said Tuesday. “I told them we were targeting a zero increase.” Even with a zero increase in the tax commitments, some of the county’s towns will see an increase because valuations went up considerably, she noted.
The commissioners learned that of the $747,155 expected in surplus this year, about $342,000 can be used to help offset taxes.
Although Sheriff John Goggin had budgeted two police cruisers, the commissioners scaled the request back to one vehicle. They agreed to replace a pickup truck that has more than 170,000 miles on its odometer, but not the sheriff’s cruiser which has been driven less than 70,000 miles.
At Tourtelotte’s recommendation, the commissioners plan to review further the county’s share of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office. “We’re giving them a lot,” she said. The county furnishes a building and pays the utilities, sewer and oil, which amounted to $61,188 last year. In addition, the county funds the secretary’s salary at $33,700.
Commissioner Tom Lizotte suggested that it might be better for Cooperative Extension to move to Pine Crest Park, which would free the building for the sheriff’s dispatch center when a new courthouse is constructed.
“The extension does a great job but that’s a lot of money. We need to look at that,” Lizotte said.
The commissioners noted that no cost-of-living increases were budgeted, although eight eligible employees will receive step increases. Pleased with Tourtelotte’s performance, the commissioners each gave up $500 from their stipends to give her a raise without affecting the budget.
In other budget highlights, the county will continue to pay 100 percent of the individual health insurance coverage for county employees and the county now is responsible for the witness fees and mileage for both District and Superior courts. The county has funded the Superior Court fees in past years, but the Legislature since has shifted the District Court fees to the counties.
The draft budget will be reviewed next month by the county budget advisory committee represented by David Cookson of Guilford, Joseph DiAngelo of the Unorganized Territory, Marc Pomerleau of Wellington, Len Nilson of Sangerville, Thomas Sands of Dover-Foxcroft, John Tatko of Willimantic, Mary Downs of Sebec, Gerald Brown of Milo and Terry Knowles of Brownville.