BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot County budget committee and commissioners Monday night unanimously approved a $15.72 million budget for 2011 — an increase of nearly $1 million over last year’s budget of $14.8 million.
The budget as proposed generated no controversy and little discussion. Questions from members of the Penobscot County budget committee, which is made up of representatives from municipalities throughout the county, focused on the more than $500,000 increase recommended for the Penobscot Regional Communications Center.
That money would pay the salaries and benefits of the eight additional dispatchers that will need to be hired when the city of Bangor’s dispatch center consolidates with the county’s dispatch center, said Jim Ryan, head of the center.
Last month, the Bangor City Council gave initial approval to consolidating the dispatch centers. Bangor dispatchers have been invited to apply for positions with the county once councilors give final approval to a consolidation plan and set a date for the changeover, Ryan said.
Ryan said that consoles and other equipment used by dispatchers at the Bangor police station could be moved to the third floor of the historic county courthouse where the county dispatch is housed. He also told budget committee members that the city’s and county’s equipment are compatible with each other.
Other increases in the county budget included a 15 percent increase in the cost of health care for employees and $129,000 for six cruisers to replace aging ones for the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition, witness fees for the District Attorney’s Office will increase from $8,000 to $13,000. Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said that previously the court system paid a portion of witness fees. Last year, the judiciary successfully lobbied the Legislature to remove those fees from its budget and have them paid by the counties, he said.
A public hearing on the budget as approved has been set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, on the first floor of the historic Penobscot County Courthouse on Hammond Street.
The tax rate, estimated to be $1.165 per $1,000 assessed valuation, is expected to be set by commissioners after the public hearing.