Knox County commissioners vow to reduce proposed 9 percent tax hike

Posted Oct. 19, 2012, at 1:23 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The proposed 2013 Knox County budget was unveiled Friday morning and the first draft calls for up to a 9 percent increase in county taxes to the municipalities.

County Commissioner Chairman Roger Moody said, however, that the increase will likely be less with $175,000 expected to be available to reduce the amount owed by towns. He also noted the commissioners and budget committee have yet to begin their work on it.

The first of two formal public hearings on the budget is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Knox County Courthouse. The review by the commissioners and budget committee is scheduled to continue through December.

Moody noted the bottomline increase was 9 percent.

“That’s a large increase and one I’ll be looking to reduce,” Moody said.

The submission of the proposed 2013 budget comes a year after a contentious 2012 budget review that was met with sharp criticism from many municipal leaders over the pay hikes granted to some employees.

The first draft of the 2013 proposed budget calls for pay increases of at least 2 percent for employees although the finance director said the cost-of-living index is 1.7 percent and raises will be reduced to that level.

But in addition to cost-of-living increases, some workers will get step increases based on their longevity with the county.

Commissioner Carol Maines of Rockland said she also was concerned about the increase and questioned whether the county can afford to even grant cost-of-living increases this year.

The overall budget for 2013 is proposed at $9.7 million.

The largest accounts are the jail budgeted at nearly $3.6 million, the sheriff’s patrol at nearly $2 million, the communications budget at slightly more than $1 million, the airport at $506,000, administration at $477,000, district attorney’s office at $439,000, building maintenance at $326,000, finance at $266,000, registry of deeds at $252,000, and probate at $230,000.

After accounting for revenues, the amount projected to be billed to the Knox County communities in 2013 is $8.1 million. Moody said, however, that this should be lowered by another $175,000 through the use of surplus.

Camden will pay the largest share of the expenses of county government because it has the largest property valuations and that is how county taxes are assessed. Based on this first draft of the budget, Camden is projected to pay $1,279,719 in 2013, about 9 percent ($104,765 more than in 2012).

Rockport would see its county bill rise by about $84,000 to $1,020,309. Rockland, the third largest payer, would see its county bill rise about $72,000 to $925,517.

St. George would see its county costs rise by about $73,000 to $880,000.

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