ROCKLAND, Maine — The Knox County Budget Committee gave preliminary approval Tuesday night to a $9.56 million budget for 2013, a package that will require about 4 percent more property taxes from local communities but which is trimmed from the original proposal submitted last month.
The issue of how much surplus the county should should maintain and how much it should use to lower taxes was debated at length by the budget panel.
The budget now goes to its final public hearing and final votes by the budget committee and county commissioners at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the courthouse on Union Street in Rockland.
The budget calls for spending $9,564,815 which will be offset by non-property tax revenues of $2,742,802. The spending is slightly more than 4 percent up from 2012.
Nearly all that increase is due to the first year of debt repayment and additional maintenance costs expected from the expansion of the public safety complex into 301 Park St. Voters approved the purchase of that property for the expansion in November 2011.
The budget also includes 1.75 percent cost-of-living raises for employees as well as step increases for workers who are eligible due to their length of service with the county.
Budget Committee member William Jones of Hope said the people he has talked with would rather have more surplus used by the county to lower taxes.
The preliminarily approved budget calls for using $175,000 in surplus to reduce the tax commitment to the municipalities within Knox County.
“I’d rather have my money in my pocket,” Jones said.
Budget Committee member Elizabeth Dickerson of Rockland voiced concern over using too much surplus because when that runs out, there would be a steep increase in taxes needed to maintain the current spending.
Committee member Ann Matlack of St. George said the county is already at the maximum amount of surplus it can maintain by state law.
County Finance Director/Treasurer Kathy Robinson said once the $175,000 is taken out of surplus for the 2013 budget, there will be $793,860 in surplus remaining. That translates to nearly 20 percent of the overall spending.
Camden will be paying the largest share of the county budget because it has the greatest property valuation in Knox County. Camden will pay slightly more than $1.2 million in taxes and dispatch fees in 2013, about $50,000 more than in 2012. Rockport, Rockland and St.George are the next largest payers in the county.
The largest expenditures for the county are the jail at nearly $3.6 million, the sheriff’s patrol at nearly $2 million, communications at slightly less than $1 million and the airport at about $477,000.