ELLSWORTH, Maine — Hancock County officials hope that next year’s budget will result in county taxes increasing by only a few percentage points.
To offset unavoidable increases in fuel prices, insurance costs and contractual obligations, the county is looking at reducing hours for some county employees, according to Philip Roy, the county’s chief financial officer.
On Wednesday, the county budget advisory committee took its final vote in recommending an overall $6.6 million 2010 budget to county commissioners. Such a budget would require the county to collect $5.15 million in taxes in order to support its expenditures.
If that recommendation is adopted, county taxes could increase 2.86 percent. To support its current budget of $7.18 million, Hancock County collected $5 million in taxes this year.
Roy said Thursday that commissioners had suggested reducing hours for many employees from 40 to 35 hours a week as a way to save money. With such a reduction in personnel costs in mind, commissioners initially suggested budgeting $381,086 in expenditures for the District Attorney’s Office, for example.
But the budget advisory committee recommended budgeting $408,925 in expenditures for the district attorney, which will allow employees there to continue working 40 hours a week.
Roy said employees in the county’s registry of probate, which has seen its workload decrease recently, could end up working only 35 hours a week. County commissioners also have proposed budgeting for only 35 hours of work each week for employees in the registry of deeds, Roy said, but Julie Curtis, the elected head of the department, hopes to be able to use surcharge revenue to help fund an additional five hours of work each week for each of her employees. With the surcharge revenue helping to cover personnel costs, employees in the registry of deeds would continue to work 40-hour workweeks.
“There are no [pay] raises in the budget at all, aside from step increases,” Roy said Thursday.
As a result, county employees will not receive any cost-of-living adjustments in their pay for 2010, he said.
The county’s three commissioners are expected to give final approval to the proposed budget, which covers the calendar year, by Dec. 15. The county charter requires a unanimous vote by the commissioners if they want to override the budget advisory committee’s budget recommendation.