ROCKLAND — The Knox County Commissioners and Knox County Budget Committee gave initial approval Tuesday, Nov. 22, to a 2023 budget that has spending up 13 percent.

The proposal goes to a final public hearing and final votes by both panels at 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15, at the Knox County courthouse.

The budget comes in at $14,968,407, up 13 percent from the approved 2022 budget of $13.2 million. The proposed 2023 package is down about $600,000 from the initial draft that was reviewed by commissioners on Oct. 14.

The amount of property taxes to be required from Knox County municipalities for 2023 will also be 13 percent more under the proposed budget.

The larger budget is due to wage increases, rising health insurance costs and additional staffing.

Committee member Bob Duke of Rockport said the budget was ridiculous.

“People are hurting out there,” Duke said at the Nov. 22 joint meeting of the boards. The meeting lasted for three hours.

County Administrator Andrew Hart said he was not happy with the increase either but that the decision by the county to increase pay to retain and recruit employees was largely behind the increase.

During an effort by the Budget Committee to cut money from the Department of Corrections budget, member Barry Norris of Union warned that jail operations are mandated by the state and that further cuts were not responsible.

“Don’t scold me,” Duke said.

Norris said he was not scolding anyone but simply pointing out that the county had to meet the state mandates.

The largest account in the draft county budget is the Department of Corrections, which is proposed at $5.7 million, an increase of $700,000. The budget calls for creating a diversion deputy for $50,263 not including benefits.

The diversion deputy would oversee people who have been ordered by the court to wear electronic monitoring or who have entered into Maine pre-trial contracts or are on deferred dispositions. That amounts to about 158 people at a time. The deputy would supervise these people to avoid them ending up in jail, for instance by referring them to case workers to find housing. Sheriff Patrick Polky said last month that the cost to keep someone out of jail is much less than if the county had to incarcerate them.

The commissioners and Budget Committee are apart by $60,000 on the corrections budget, with the budget panel calling for $60,000 less. At the final meeting, the Budget Committee can override the commissioners if it can get a two-thirds majority to agree to the lower number.

The sheriff’s patrol budget is proposed at $3 million, an increase of nearly $300,000.

The communications budget is proposed at $1.4 million, an increase of $100,000.

The airport budget is proposed at $1.1 million, about a $250,000 increase. The budget is fully funded by non-property tax revenues, such as fees and rent, to users of the airport.

The draft budgets for maintaining the courthouse and public safety buildings total $627,000, an increase of $30,000.

The administration and information technology budget is proposed at $772,000, an increase of about $100,000. The commissioners pay is proposed to remain at $9,200 for each member. The annual additional stipend for the commission chair would remain at $800.

The department calls for adding a human resources manager for $62,000, not including benefits.

The district attorney budget is proposed at $605,000, up $47,000. The salaries of the prosecutors are not included in the county, but instead paid through the Attorney General’s budget at the state level. The finance budget is proposed at $391,000, up $59,000. The probate budget is proposed at $313,000, up $18,000. The deeds budget is proposed at $254,000, up $13,000. Deeds is projecting it will bring in $543,000 in revenues. The emergency management agency budget is proposed at $282,000, up $27,000.

Camden would pay the largest share of the county budget. The cost of county government is divided up largely on property valuations with the more valued towns paying a larger share. Camden’s payments — including public safety dispatch fees — are projected to be $1,923,000, an increase of $205,000.

Rockport would pay $1,399,000, an increase of $189,000. Rockland would pay $1,271,000, an increase of $125,000. St. George would pay $1,221,000, an increase of $195,000. Vinalhaven would pay $647,000, an increase of $36,000. Warren would pay $614,000 an increase of $102,000. Thomaston would pay $573,000, an increase of $79,000. Owls Head would pay $535,000, an increase of $46,000. North Haven would pay $444,000, an increase of $63,000. Cushing will pay $453,000, an increase of $57,000. South Thomaston would pay $410,000, an increase of $46,000. Union would pay $422,000, an increase of $65,000. Friendship would pay $369,000, an increase of $52,000. Hope would pay $338,000, an increase of $21,000. Washington would pay $256,000, an increase of $25,000. Appleton would pay $221,000, an increase of $28,000. Isle au Haut would pay $77,000, a decrease of $9,000. Matinicus would pay $39,000, unchanged from a year ago.