ROCKLAND, Maine — The Knox County budget committee began its review of the proposed 2013 budget Thursday with a trio of town officials cautioning panelists to keep in mind the effect of rising costs.
“Look at this hard. Remember the taxpayers,” said Washington Selectman Donald Grinnell during a brief public hearing held Thursday afternoon at the Knox County Courthouse on the proposed $9.7 million budget. As currently proposed, the budget would require about 9 percent more in property taxes from municipalities.
Thomaston Town Manager Valmore Blastow contended that the increase is actually 18 percent, if the budget committee only takes into account that part of the budget that it has control over. He said the panel should not factor in the $3.6 million budgeted for the jail because that amount is determined by the state.
Blastow also voiced concern that if the state walked away from its financial responsibility for the jail, the municipalities would have to come up with even more money.
He said that in the past five years, the town has seen its property taxes increase because of reductions in state aid for education and reductions in revenue sharing for the municipality.
Union Selectman Greg Grotton voiced concern about the way the budget is approved — by a combination of the budget committee and the county commissioners. He said that in towns such as Union, the final budget decisions are made by the voters at town meetings.
Grotton asked if selectmen from the towns would have an opportunity to pose questions during the county panel’s reviews.
Knox County Budget Committee Chairman Robert Duke said that would not be the best way to try to get answers. He said the towns have budget committee members who represent them and that selectmen should use them as conduits for communicating questions or concerns about the county budget.
Duke said there will also be a budget committee public hearing near the end of the process before a final vote is taken. A final public hearing will be held either Dec. 11 or Dec. 18.
The budget committee chairman also pointed out that all the meetings of the committees are open to the public.
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.
The budget was unveiled last week with County Commissioner Chairman Roger Moody saying he would work to reduce the increase.