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Municipal officials ask Knox County to not increase budget

By Stephen Betts | Oct 23, 2020

Rockland — Municipal officials asked county leaders to cut the increase in the proposed 2021 budget.

A public hearing was held online with only a few people participating in the Oct. 22 hearing.

The first draft of a proposed 2021 Knox County budget will require about 5.5% more from property owners.

The proposed 2021 expenditure budget comes in at $12,780,000, an increase of 7.5% ($864,000). But additional revenues will result in the bills going out to municipalities increasing 5.5% ($450,000).

Much of the county expenditure increase is for wage increases. In the sheriff's department for example, County Administrator Andrew Hart said other law enforcement departments and other County Sheriff’s Offices, as well as State Law Enforcement and Public Safety Agencies are increasing wages and that puts Knox County well below these other departments.

The budget includes a 5 percent wage increase (3 percent and well as 2 percent step increases for eligible employees).

Rockland City Councilor Ed Glaser spoke during the public hearing, pointing out he was speaking as a private citizen, and pointed out that Rockland and Regional School Unit 13 were able to come up with a budget that resulted in no property tax increase.

"I'm hopeful that you can find a way to do what the city and school district has done, I would appreciate it as a taxpayer of Rockland," Glaser said.

He said the percentage of property taxes going to the municipal budget is declining, but the other levels of government such as the county are taking a greater share.

Budget committee member Robert Duke said a 5.5% increase was unacceptable.

Charles Grover of Cushing said county officials need to start looking at ways to reduce the budget now and not wait to see if estimated health insurance and workers compensation payments will come in less than initially projected.

Budget Committee member Tom Marshall of Rockland said he takes the goal of a 0% increase seriously. He asked whether the county could look at the number of employees.

Hart said the county is not overstaffed.

Shawn Levasseur of Rockland was elected by the budget committee to be its chairman for the next year. He succeeds Robert Duke of Rockport who has served in the role for ,many years but did not seek the post this year. Roger Peabody was elected vice chairman.

The largest account in the county budget is corrections (jail) which is proposed at $4,691,000, up $494,000.

The sheriff's patrol budget is proposed at $2,641,000, an increase of $208,000.

The communications budget is proposed at $1,294,000 which is nearly the same.

The airport budget is proposed at $796,000, up $81,000. The airport is fully funded from user fees and other non-property tax revenues.

The administration and technology budget is proposed at $626,000, up $24,000.

The district attorney's budget is proposed at $560,000, $23,000.

The building maintenance accounts total $629,000, a decrease of $40,000.

The finance department budget is proposed at $329,000, up $19,000.

Probate is recommended at $292,000, up $15,000.

The emergency management agency budget is proposed at $254,000 up $23,000.

The registry of deeds budget is proposed at $226,000, a decrease of $7,000. This department brings in revenues that exceeds its expenditure budget.

The debt repayment budget is proposed at $202,000, a decrease of $6,000.

After non-property tax revenues are factored in, the amount of property taxes to be billed to communities, along with the fees for the communications center, total $8.9 million, an increase of $462,193.

Camden will be paying the largest share of those costs. The distribution of costs for the county budget is based on property valuations. Camden's share of the budget would be $1,771,702 if the draft budget is proposed as recommended. This would be an increase of $129,000.

Rockport's share would increase $67,000. reaching $1,248,000.

Rockland's share would increase $37,000, reaching $1,179,000.

St. George's share would decrease $35,000, falling to $1,059,000.

Vinalhaven would pay $40,000 more, reaching $631,000.

Thomaston would pay $20,000 more, reaching $580,000.

Warren would pay $526,00, an increase of $24,000

Owls Head would pay $503,000. an increase of $23,000.

Cushing would pay $408,000, an increase of $14,000.

North Haven would pay $393,000, an increase of $15,000.

South Thomaston would pay $375,000, an increase of $23,000.

Union would pay $367,000, an increase of $29,000.

Friendship would pay $326,000, an increase of $16,000.

Hope would pay $302,000, up $14,000.

Washington would pay $225,000, up $13,000.

Appleton would pay $199,000, an increase of $7,000.

Isle au Haut would pay $89,000, an increase of $1,000.

Matinicus would pay $40,000, an increase of $2,000.

The budget committee and commissioners will be holding a series of meetings which are scheduled to culminate in a final public hearing and final votes Dec. 10.

(Correction: The original article incorrectly stated that the county would be increasing wages for the Sheriff's department officers by 21 percent over three years).

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Comments (4)
Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Oct 25, 2020 12:59

As a Camden taxpayer I feel as though Camden's portion to the County Sheriff should be prorated as our own Police Department handles our calls very nicely.  There are only a handful of times when the SO has to actually cover Camden.

 



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Oct 25, 2020 09:13

A big Thank You goes out to Ed Glaser for speaking up against the budget increase.  Can you imagine the impact it would have had on the Knox County commissioners had the entire Rockland City Council as well as selectmen from other towns join in as well.  It never ceases to amaze me how politicians love to talk about lowering budgets yet will not put in the effort to accomplish the task.  I have been saying for years now that we are going about this budget process all wrong.  Councilors or commissioners should tell the City or County administrators how much money they are allowed to spend and let them make the adjustments.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Oct 23, 2020 16:17

Good luck with that. I asked the city not to raise my taxes to no avail. Not to mention being the county seat so we get to provide police, fire and emergency services to the workers and users of these facilities.



Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Oct 23, 2020 11:06

Aw.... come on now. We Rocklandites are used to being taxed out of house and home. Now that our driveby revaluation is in effect the county gets a bigger Rockland piece too, based on higher home valuations. We get to pay for big county pay raises for some services we don't use. Only fair... right?



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