MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County Budget Committee has completed the 2012 budget, three weeks before its deadline of Dec. 8.
The proposed $5.7 million budget represents a 1.6 percent increase — far below last year’s 12 percent jump in taxation — and was trimmed by the committee from the original $6.07 million budget proposal. The operating budget reflects a six percent decrease, explained County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald this week. “This is a no-frills budget,” Fitzgerald said. “We are taking care of what we are responsible for and nothing has increased beyond that.” She said there are no new purchases or major changes in the proposal.
Fitzgerald said the committee finished its work Thursday, Nov. 17, and will present it to the county commissioners during the first week of December. The committee consists of representatives from throughout the county, both volunteers and elected officials.
Even though the budget has been completed, all the figures are not final. “We still have three union contracts to negotiate,” Fitzgerald said. She was confident that those negotiations would not affect the budget’s bottom line.
Several changes enabled the committee to keep the increase low, including changing the structure of employees’ insurance plans. Fitzgerald said the changes will increase the employees’ co-payments in some categories but will likely save the county $125,000 next year. The shift decreased the county’s premium by 12 percent, she said.
An additional $1,800 in savings may be realized next year because the county has recently shifted to purchasing its electricity from Freedom Energy Logistics, LLC, based in Manchester, N.H., Fitzgerald said.
The power will still be delivered by Bangor Hydro Electric Co. The shift was augmented by a conversion at the Washington County Jail to new light fixtures. Fitzgerald said the fixtures will allow for the use of energy-efficient bulbs.
A similar conversion is under way at the Washington County Courthouse. “We’ll see a payback on this within three years,” the manager said.