DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Piscataquis County Commissioners approved a new budget at a special meeting on Dec. 31, which included a $25,000 increase for the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council.
The new $4.033 million budget is up 1.13 percent from last year, according to County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte.
Some other minor changes were made by the commissioners following the County Budget Advisory Committee’s public hearing in late November, and nonunion, full-time employees were given a 2.25 percent pay increase. “The same increase was put in the budget as a placeholder for the union employees but there’s no guarantee,” Tourtelotte said. “The contract has not been settled yet.”
The commissioners also voted to increase funding for the Cooperative Extension Service from $17,500 to $18,000; to decrease the request from the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce from $2,200 to $2,000 — the same level as last year — and decreased the request from the Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District from $15,000 to $12,500. This was a compromise between what the district received last year — $10,000 — and their $15,000 request for 2014.
They also voted to take $150,000 from undesignated revenue to help offset any tax increase for municipalities.
The County Budget Advisory Committee recommended against the PCEDC funding increase, with some members praising the organization, but suggesting that more funding should come from the municipalities that benefit from the agency.
Supporters, such as Brownville Town Manager Matt Pineo, pointed out that PCEDC has brought in nearly $18 for every dollar invested in the organization over the last five years.
Retired SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns also spoke in favor of the increase, citing plans to revamp the Penquis Higher Education Center, which hasn’t been fully used in recent years.
There was also a slight decrease in health insurance and unemployment insurance rates in the new budget, but an increase in workers’ compensation rates.
The commissioners also elected James Annis as their new chairman for 2014. Annis was somewhat reluctant to accept the chairmanship, but outgoing Chairman Fred Trask and Commissioner Eric Ward both cast votes in his favor. Ward was unanimously elected vice chair.
Annis, who was elected as county commissioner in 2012, is a former Dover-Foxcroft selectman and served in the Maine House of Representatives from 2000-08.