MACHIAS, Maine — Midway through its annual deliberations, the Washington County budget committee thus far has kept any proposed increases in the 2011 budget well below last year’s 12 percent jump in taxation.
“It’s at about 3 percent,” County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald said Tuesday. She said the committee was conservative and keeping to a bare-bones budget.
“There are no gold faucets here,” she said.
The county commissioners presented the $6.046 million proposed budget to the committee in August.
“What we created this year was a budget that reflects just what we need to run the departments,” Fitzgerald said. “Our department heads work very hard to contain costs and provide our residents with the maximum benefits.”
Fitzgerald said that the steep rise in costs last year resulted in a reduction in staff. She does not anticipate that happening this year.
“We started meeting early because we felt that would give us the time to work hard and yet the process would be less stressful,” Fitzgerald said.
She said the extra time will allow for plenty of review and that the committee is still awaiting final word on such expenses as health insurance. She said the county is looking at possibly changing health insurance providers and that would affect the bottom line paid by the county.
Fitzgerald stressed that many costs are completely out of the county’s control.
The committee will meet again on Nov. 1 and Fitzgerald said firmer figures will be available to the committee by then.
“I really want to return the completed budget to the commissioners by Nov. 10,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t want the committee to have the stress of going down to the wire.”
The budget is required to be returned to the commissioners by December.