Hancock County board reduces taxes for second year

Posted Dec. 20, 2013, at 4:57 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — For the second year in a row, Hancock County commissioners have adopted an annual budget that will result in county taxes going down, according to county officials.

Two years ago, the three-seat commission approved an overall $6.9 million 2012 budget, for which the county collected $5,197,505 in taxes. In December of last year, commissioners approved a budget that, at $7 million, had a higher expenditure total but reduced the tax burden to $5,178,972, roughly $18,500 or 0.36 percent less than the 2012 tax burden.

In a unanimous vote last week, on Dec. 13, the commission approved a $7.05 million budget for 2014 that will require the county to raise $5.16 million in taxes, according to Phil Roy, the county’s chief financial officer. The tax total is about $18,600 or 0.36 percent less than the amount raised in 2013.

Percy “Joe” Brown, chairman of the commission, said Friday that the county always sets out to draft each annual budget with no increase in taxes. He said he is proud that the county has been able to reduce its tax burden two years running, even if it was by a relatively small amount.

He added that county taxes have increased “just over 3 percent” since 2009, when the county collected $5,006,786 in taxes to fund $7.18 million in expenditures.

“In this economy, it’s good for the taxpayer,” Brown said.

County officials added that although some individual expenditure and revenue line items are changing a little from 2013 to 2014, there are no major changes to any parts of the 2014 budget.

Brown said that one thing the county did in 2013 that is expected to save the money in the long run was to convert the heating system in the county courthouse from an oil furnace to propane burners, at a cost of $112,000. Brown said if the conversion project is not yet complete, it will be soon. The courthouse is expected to be running on propane by Jan. 1, he said.

Brown said the project will pay for itself in fuel savings within the next six years. If natural gas ever becomes available in Ellsworth, he added, the new burners easily could be converted to run on that type of fuel instead of propane.

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