ELLSWORTH, Maine — Hancock County commissioners have given their final approval to a 2013 county budget that is expected to result in a slight decrease in county taxes, according to county officials.
The county budget includes $7 million in expenditures, which itself is a small increase from the $6.9 million in expenditures the three-commissioner panel approved a year ago for the 2012 budget. But taxes raised for the 2013 budget are expected to be slightly lower than the tax bills sent out this year, county officials said Monday.
The amount the county expected to raise in taxes in 2013 is $5,178,972, less than the $5,197,505 it raised in taxes this year. The lower tax commitment, a reduction of about $18,533, represents a decrease of 0.36 percent in taxes.
“We just scrubbed everything again,” Steve Joy, the commission chairman, said Monday about reducing the county’s taxes. “We can function under [the 2013 budget]. We can provide services under it.”
Phil Roy, the county’s chief financial officer, said Monday that the county’s tax bills are being reduced with the help of $276,000 in undesignated fund balance from 2012 that is being committed to the 2013 budget.
He said the county also is benefitting from a lower-than-expected increase in health care costs. In August, county officials had expected such costs would rise between 15 percent and 18 percent, as they have in previous years, but instead increased by only about 5 percent. The county’s expected health care costs for 2013, he added, have a budgeted total of $1,047,314, Roy said.
He also noted that, to help keep expenses down, county officials have decided not to offer any pay increases in 2013 to nonunion employees. The county currently is negotiating a new contract with union employees working in the sheriff’s department, regional communications center, and jail.
“[Nonunion employees] will not be receiving any raises in the budget,” Roy said.
Joy added that, though some people have said that the county should hire a county administrator to oversee the county clerk and chief finance director, he can’t see adding $100,000 or so in personnel costs in any such reorganization.
“I can’t see doing it in this [economic] environment,” Joy said. “We are being good stewards of [the taxpayers’] money.”
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.