Penobscot County eyes budget hike

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 09, 2010, at 11:55 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot County commissioners voted Tuesday to recommend a budget of nearly $15.72 million for 2011.

Commissioners are seeking an increase of nearly $1 million over last year’s budget of $14.8 million.

More than half of the budgeted increase would be spent to consolidate the city of Bangor’s dispatching center with the Penobscot Regional Communications Center on the third floor of the courthouse on Hammond Street.

That amount could decrease depending on when next year the consolidation actually takes place, Commissioner Peter Baldacci of Bangor said Tuesday.

Last month, the Bangor City Council voted to consolidate in 2011 with PRCC but has not set a date when the changeover will occur.

The money expended by the county on the consolidation could be recouped in 2012 or 2013 if the Legislature approves a statewide consolidation plan recommended by the Public Utilities Commission, according to County Administrator William Collins Jr.

In addition, the proposed budget includes an increase of about $129,000 to the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, much of which will go toward the purchase of up to five new cruisers.

Health insurance for employees is expected to rise about 13 percent, Collins said. In addition, contract negotiations are under way with unionized employees, and the amount wages would increase was uncertain Tuesday.

The final tax rate has not been set but is expected to be approximately $1.165 per $1,000 assessed valuation, according to Collins. The 2010 tax rate was about $1.118 per $1,000, according to a previously published report.

“This is a tough year on the revenue side,” Baldacci said. “We’re working at bringing back in dollars. We’ve done a lot to close the gap.”

The county lost nearly a year’s worth of revenue from the judiciary when the District and Superior courts combined in the new Penobscot Judicial Center. The building, which opened in November 2009, is owned by the court system.

The Maine judiciary paid the county $140,000 a year in rent for the old space. The Bangor post office and the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross now rent space in the renovated building. Rental income from the two is about $125,000 a year.

Most of the county’s revenue comes from taxes paid by municipalities based on their assessed valuation determined by the state. Other income comes from fees charged by the registries of deeds and probate and the rental of space in the former Bangor District Courthouse to the U.S. Postal Service, the Red Cross and the state Department of Probation.

The Penobscot County budget committee, made up of representatives from municipalities throughout the county, will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, at the historic Penobscot County Courthouse to consider final approval of the proposal.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/11/09/news/bangor/penobscot-county-eyes-budget-hike/ printed on December 18, 2014