County budget going to committee

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FARMINGTON – The county commissioners have compiled a preliminary budget, which will be reviewed by the Budget Committee in the coming weeks.

The budget represents only six months of the 2009 fiscal year, as the county seeks to align itself with the state’s June to July fiscal year. The commissioners and budget committee, made up of 12 Franklin County selectmen, will meet again in the spring of 2009 to set a one-year budget.

The total budget now under consideration stands at $2,191,843. That represents a 49 percent decrease from the full-year 2008 budget. Any comparison to previous years’ budgets is difficult at best, as some of the expenditures represent one-time or once-a-year expenses.

The commissioners themselves pared $85,000 off of what had originally been recommended by department heads. Included within this number are $40,000 in reductions within the Sheriff’s Department, mostly in reductions in the fuel line and a recalculation of employee wages as well as the commissioners deciding not to spend $22,000 for an additional cruiser.

“If you stop and look at the budget,” Chief Deputy Ray Meldrum said, “you’ll see that we’re hanging real close to where we were in 2002.” He pointed out that between 2005 and 2008 the budget increased $30,000, a figure representing mostly the rising price of tires and fuel.

New expenditures this year for that department include a riot shield at $3,600, an electronic vehicle tracking system, at $3,000, a new shredder, at $5,000 and a fax/printer, at $3,000. In total, these items fall under the “public safety” line item which has decreased by $3,000 from the 2008 budget.

Another $14,000 of the reduction represents commissioners standing by their policy of flat-funding community organizations and agencies such as Western Maine Transportation, Tri-County Mental Health Services and Western Maine Community Action. These agencies came forward with proposals to increase their funding, citing tough economic times, but the commissioners have remained set in their desire not to increase or include new agency line items in the budget.

“Lean and mean,” Commissioner Gary McGrane, of Jay said, describing the budget work. “Actually, we’re mostly lean.”

The budget committee will meet for the first time next week.

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