MACHIAS, Maine — Members of the Washington County Budget Advisory Committee got their first look Thursday at the proposed 2010 county budget.
The proposal is a modest 1.7 percent greater than this year’s budget. The current budget is $5.9 million while the 2010 proposal is $6,049,075.
Overall expenditures are 1.7 percent greater for 2010 than 2009, but because of fewer anticipated revenues the amount to be raised through taxation — $4.4 million — represents a 2.8 percent increase.
A second option would provide for no increase in funding for airports — Washington County provides $1,500 each to airports in Machias, Eastport, Princeton and Lubec — or third-party agencies, and would result in a 2.2 percent increase.
“We take this process very seriously,” said Chris Gardner, who is chairman of Washington County commissioners before handing the budget off to the nine-member committee.
“We pride ourselves in keeping the taxes low,” he said. “Over the past five years, we have limited the rise in taxation to just over 1 percent. We owe that to our department heads and county manager.”
Gardner suggested that the committee members go into their review process not with eyes toward cutting the budget but rather to provide the best budget possible.
“This is a tough economic year,” Gardner said. “This will not be a fun exercise.”
He also advised the committee that even though it has no control over the jail’s portion of the budget — that has been turned over to the state Board of Corrections through the consolidation plan — it should review it and make recommendations.
“We still represent the people of this county,” Gardner said. “We will honor that responsibility first before anything else. We think it would be best if the people of Washington County took a look at that budget first.”
Sheriff Donnie Smith was asked last week to cut $32,000 from his proposed jail budget because he was over the state’s cap. Smith’s proposed budget was $2,020,370, just 1.6 percent over the cap of $2,000,525. The state’s goal is for no county jail to exceed a 1 percent increase.
Smith told the Bangor Daily News last week that cutting his budget further would result in the loss of at least one jail guard and could result in cutting back the number of inmates housed at the Washington County Jail.
Before the Budget Advisory Committee adjourned to elect a chairman and set a meeting schedule, it heard presentations from a dozen agencies that are requesting county funding.
Representatives from each agency explained its role in the county and the services it provides. The representatives also noted that every dollar provided by the county is leveraged to bring additional state and federal funds to Washington County.