DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Piscataquis County officials used to rely on the revenue from the boarding of federal prisoners — typically about $400,000 a year — to reduce the tax commitment to communities.
Under the new consolidated jail system ordered by the state for cost savings, that federal boarding revenue now must be placed into a dedicated account and used only for the jail.
“This business about the jail consolidation saving property tax money, yeah!” Piscataquis County Manager Mike Henderson said Wednesday. “That killed us on the revenue side; even though my budget was only 1 percent higher than last year because of the loss of revenue, the assessments to the towns went up 24 percent.”
Henderson said county spending proposed for 2009 increased by only 1 percent over last year but the revenue just isn’t there to help reduce taxes this year.
Recognizing that the towns could not absorb a 24 percent increase, the Piscataquis County commissioners went back to the drawing board Tuesday to discuss further cuts and changes in the proposed budget.
Henderson presented the commissioners with a list of suggestions and some changes were made. “It was a little bit here and little bit there, but it added up to a little bit,” Henderson said. For example, the sheriff’s department had budgeted about $29,000 for a new cruiser next year, but those funds were removed. In addition, the county budgeted $4.47 per gallon for fuel, which was the cap price in June, but that amount has been reduced to $3.50 per gallon.
With those changes and the use of $300,000 from surplus, the tax commitment would be reduced to a 5 percent increase over last year, according to Henderson.
The budget, which is now being revised, will be presented at a public budget meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, in the county courthouse.