Commissioners approve county budget, ARPA funds

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FARMINGTON – The Franklin County Commissioners approved a budget of $9 million during Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Bob Carlton voted against the commissioners’ original recommendations for funding on most department budgets. The recommendations between the commissioners’ recommendations and the budget committee recommendations differed when it came to salaries and cost of living adjustments, with the commissioners recommending three percent COLA increases for non-union employees and the budget committee recommending five percent.

Carlton said that the increase to five percent would be ‘small potatoes’ compared to the overall budget and that the higher increase would likely help support employee retention and reduce costs of hiring and training new employees.

Commissioners Lance Harvell and Terry Brann voted in favor of the commissioners’ recommendations for funding, with few exceptions.

The budget for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was approved at the sum recommended by the budget committee, $2,555,010. This was a decrease of roughly $175,000 as a result of lowering the capital outlay budget for new vehicles and a reduction in the reserve account. Commissioner Brann opposed this change but with the support of Commissioners Carlton and Harvell, it was approved.

The commissioners unanimously approved an increased budget for the county jail, adding $158,000 to cover a new generator. As the commissioners unanimously approved this increase, it will go back to the county budget committee for discussion. By state statute, the commissioners would require a unanimous vote to change budget committee recommendations, and the budget committee would need a two-third majority vote to then override a unanimous decision from the county commissioners.

As the jail budget was the only change unanimously approved by the commissioners, that is the only budget item on the agenda for the budget committee meeting on Monday, June 12.

The commissioners approved the salary structure for county employees, with a three percent COLA, in a two to one vote with Carlton opposing.

In addition, the commissioners approved $44,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds. $35,000 was awarded to the Wilton Lions Club for a heating system project and $9,000 was awarded to the Farmington Farmers Market towards the Harvest Bucks program, which allows SNAP users to effectively double their SNAP benefits by shopping at the farmers market.

The commissioners approved an additional $310,500 in ARPA funds contingent on the county receiving Congressionally Directed Spending Funds towards the county public safety building project. If the county receives congressional funds, ARPA funds cannot be used on that project. If the county does not receive those funds, the commissioners are expected to use ARPA funds towards the public safety building.

The contingent funds were awarded to the Phillips Area Community Center for $80,000 towards a new roof; the Farmington Fairgrounds for $75,000 to conduct an engineering study for a new grandstand project; Heaven’s Cupboard, a food and meal delivery service that covers all of Greater Franklin County, for $30,500 to expand the facility; and the Mt. Blue Middle School technical education center project, with $125,000 for a ventilation system. These funds will not be made available until the congressional funds are received by the county, if awarded.

A number of other ARPA requests were not acted upon.

This meeting was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and is available for viewing online at MtBlueTV.org

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