MACHIAS, Maine — Washington County commissioners have approved a preliminary budget for 2009 that’s lower than the current year’s plan.
The amount to be raised from taxation for the preliminary budget is $4.3 million, 2.02 percent less than last year’s tax levy assessment of $4.4 million.
The county commissioners approved their preliminary budget last week.
The full budget now goes before the 2009 budget advisory committee. It is up to the advisory committee to come up with a final recommendation. The committee is expected to meet later this month. The completed budget will be returned to the commissioners for adoption on Dec. 4.
The committee is made up of town and city officials, including Calais City Manager Diane Barnes, Baileyville Town Manager Luke Lazure, Machias Town Manager Betsy Fitzgerald and Columbia Falls Selectwoman Barbara Drisko.
County Manager Linda Pagels said Wednesday that this year’s budget differs from previous years’ spending plans because of a legislative act that places the county’s jail budget under the state.
As a result, she said, the county’s tax levy for the jail is capped at $2 million. “All growth factors in addition to this cap, will be funded by the state of Maine,” Pagels said.
In addition to the county’s administrative and Sheriff’s Department budgets, the county budget covers the offices of probate and deeds as well as the county’s treasurer.
Pagels said there were no surprises in the budget because the departments have worked together monthly for the past year. Pagels established the monthly meeting format shortly after she was hired as county manager in February 2007. “A level of trust has developed [between the departments] so you don’t have to ask for an inflated amount [for your department] to get what you really need,” she added. “The dynamics have changed.”
In this year’s proposed budget, Pagels said, money has been set aside for a wage survey.
“Part of this budget does fund a wage survey so that we can be assured that we are paying our employees properly with what is going on out there in the real world,” she said.
Also at last week’s commissioners meeting, several third-party agencies appeared to request their annual allotments. Some of the requests were up, but most remained the same as last year, Pagels noted. “They only have one opportunity to come and ask,” she said of this year’s requests.
One agency that did ask for an increase in its allotment was Next Step, which helps women suffering from domestic abuse. That agency asked for $3,000 this year compared with last year’s $500. “They do work with our Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies,” Pagels said.
Last year the total amount allotted for third-party requests was $110,100. This year the requests total $132,100.
Of the four airports in the county, only Princeton asked for more money. Last year it received $1,500.
This year it requested $4,000. The Machias Airport asked for a $500 increase to $2,000. Eastport and Lubec asked for $1,500 each, the amount they requested last year.