Knox County budget draft shows 3 percent increase
Rockland — Knox County Commissioners met Sept. 29 to review the 2017 Knox County budget draft with the county’s department managers. County Administrator Andrew Hart has proposed total budget expenditures of $9,362,726, an increase of 3.15 percent, or $285,762, from 2016. The $9.3 million figure does not include proposed Communications Center budget expenditures of $1,088,800, up 2.34 percent, or $24,913, from 2016.
The budget draft shows total proposed county taxes and fees of $8,540,925, up 2.63 percent, or $218,941, from 2016. Camden, Rockport, Rockland and St. George would commit the most funds in taxes, as they did in 2016. Camden would contribute $1,359,582, Rockport $1,111,802, Rockland $979,525, and St. George $890,742.
The largest percentage increases in the proposed budget are for the Emergency Management Agency, Finance and Insurance, with increases of 10 percent each, once the departments’ revenues are deducted from total expenditures. The largest dollar increases are for the Sheriff’s Office, with $1,899,030 proposed, $67,123 more than in the 2016 budget, and the Knox County Jail, with $3,388,782 proposed, a $104,421 increase. Overall, the Sheriff’s Office and jail make up the largest proportion of proposed expenditures.
The proposed increase in the jail budget comes largely from personnel costs.
Some discussion focused on difficulties in securing jail funding. Jail Administrator Maj. John Hinkley explained that the security and control systems must be entirely replaced, as new parts for the current system are no longer available. Sheriff Donna Dennison expressed some frustration with the lack of funds for jail maintenance. “We need this fixed if we’re going to continue on,” she said.
“I’m trying to think long-range, but the picture isn’t very clear,” said County Commissioner Roger Moody. “I would hate to make these improvements and find a few years hence that the jail is not suitable in some other way.”
The largest proposed increase in the Sheriff’s Office budget comes from the purchase of new patrol car laptops, listed as a $32,500 expense. Chief Deputy Tim Carroll said the office had tried using cheaper in-car computers, but found that they had to be replaced sooner than expected.
Commissioner Carol Maines asked Carroll about the expected issuance of new handguns and rifles, which Carroll confirmed would arrive in a matter of weeks.
Caroll also revealed that P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center had donated money to the Sheriff’s Office for purchase of an alert system that would notify deputies when their patrol cars had become too hot for their dogs. The Sheriff’s Office has two K-9 partners, used for tracking and drug detection.
Hart is proposing budget decreases in several departments. These include a 14 percent, or $35,818, decrease in Knox County Courthouse maintenance, a 9 percent, or $6,472, decrease in Public Safety Building maintenance, an 8 percent, or $8,092, decrease for the Knox County Regional Airport, a 2 percent, or $3,401, decrease for debt service, a 2 percent, or $2,819, decrease for the Registry of Deeds, and a 1 percent, or $1,194, decrease for Probate.
The Knox County Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget Oct. 20 at 5 p.m., after which the Budget Committee will review the budget and decide whether to propose changes. On Dec. 15, the Budget Committee and County Commission will present the budget proposal at a second public hearing. After a vote by both bodies, the completed budget will be submitted to the State Auditor for review.
Reporter Dan Otis Smith can be reached at 594-4401 x123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org