ELLSWORTH, Maine — Though Hancock County commissioners have been briefed on a budget scenario that could have resulted in significant cuts in several county departments, they have decided instead to pursue a budget that would raise county taxes by slightly less than 2 percent, according to a county official.
Cynthia DePrenger, Hancock County clerk, said Tuesday that the preliminary 2010 budget calls for $5,102,959 to be raised in taxes to support an overall budget of more than $6.5 million. That tax total would represent a 1.92 percent increase from the $5,006,786 in taxes raised for this year’s $7.18 million budget, she said.
The county’s 2010 budget still faces a couple of months of possible adjustment before it becomes final.
DePrenger said there have been concerns that commissioners were considering serious cuts in several departments, but that such concerns were unfounded. The commissioners have been briefed on a “worst-case scenario” budget, she said, that was prompted by more than $600,000 in additional funding requests from department heads.
The theoretical budget cuts were considered by Philip Roy, the county’s financial manager, as a way to accommodate the department heads’ specific requests without significantly increasing the county’s overall budget, she said.
County commissioners decided they did not want to pursue such cuts and so asked department heads to reconsider their original 2010 budget requests, according to DePrenger. The result is the proposed $6.5 million budget.
DePrenger said the proposed 2010 overall budget is $600,000 less than the current budget because the county expects to have less fund balance leftover from 2009 to transfer into next year’s budget. Commissioners also have decided not to raise $350,000 for the county’s courthouse roof reserve account, which it has done each year for at least the past six years, she said. The county has been raising money for the reserve account with the goal of installing a new pitched roof and air exchange system to the courthouse.
“This year, we couldn’t do it,” DePrenger said of raising another $350,000 for the roof fund.
The county clerk said the county also is looking at a possible 13 percent increase in its employee health insurance costs. The county is considering its options, she said, including getting health insurance from a different provider.
“We’re looking,” DePrenger said.
A public hearing on the budget has been scheduled for 6 p.m. today at the commissioners’ meeting room in the county courthouse.
The county’s 10-member budget advisory will review the budget and make its recommendations to commissioners by Nov. 15, according to DePrenger. Commissioners will make a final decision on the 2010 budget by Dec. 15.