ROCKLAND, Maine — After years of increases and two years since a firestorm erupted over pay hikes, a proposed 2014 Knox County budget has been unveiled that calls for taking less money from area towns.
The Knox County Commissioners and Knox County Budget Committee are scheduled to formally receive the proposed $9.6 million budget at a joint meeting Thursday night.
The $9,614,653 in expenditures represents less than a 1 percent increase from the $9.56 million budget approved by both boards last year for 2013.
Despite that, the amount of property taxes and dispatch fees assessed to the Knox County communities is expected to be about 1 percent less than what was assessed in 2013. That is because the county administrator is recommending using a greater amount of surplus than was used last year to help lower the tax burden.
Camden remains the largest taxpayer to Knox County because of its high property valuation. Camden will pay $1.2 million to the county in 2013 based on the package submitted by County Administrator Andrew Hart to the commissioners and budget committee. This is about $10,000 less than the community paid in 2013.
Rockport will pay about $9,000 less for a total of $962,000; and Rockland will pay $4,000 less for a total of $884,000.
The largest account in the budget is the jail budget, proposed at nearly $3.6 million. The sheriff’s patrol budget is proposed at nearly $1.9 million. The Knox County Regional Communications budget comes in at a recommended $1 million, up about 3 percent.
The airport budget is proposed at $494,000 but is offset largely ($360,000) by user fee revenues.
Proposed pay raises for 2014 vary. The county administrator is budgeted to receive a 3.5 percent increase, bringing the salary up to $82,735. The finance director/treasurer salary is proposed to increase 3.6 percent to $72,355. The airport manager salary is rising 3.5 percent to $63,117.
Sheriff Donna Dennison’s pay is recommended by the administrator to increase 1.5 percent to $69,552.
In 2012, the commissioners were criticized for approving raises ranging from 10 to 40 percent for various county employees. They rescinded the raises because of the backlash, but then later restored them over legal concerns.
The commissioners and budget committee will review the proposed 2014 budget over the next four Thursdays. A final public hearing and vote by the boards will be held on either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19.