On Election Day the voters of Franklin County will have the opportunity to vote to expand the number of elected County Commissioners from three to five or vote NO and keep the number the same. The obvious question is why? Why is this proposed change on the ballot and how does it benefit Franklin County taxpayers and our citizens? It’s on the ballot because special interest groups organized and pressured our local Legislators to introduce this proposed change and send this issue to the voters.
Why would Social Service agencies advocate for this change and support this idea? The rest of the story is several years ago, Franklin County faced a $200,000 shortfall in revenue. County Commissioners were faced with a difficult decision. Adjust spending or raise property taxes. Commissioner Brann and I felt strongly that simply raising taxes wasn’t an option. Working with the Franklin County Budget Committee we cut spending across the board and supported a plan to phase out grants to a number of Social Service agencies. We did so by phasing in those cuts over a three year period, thus allowing those groups to find other funding sources. This decision was not made without open discussion and was done so with almost unanimous support from the County Budget Committee. Franklin County property taxpayers in Commissioner Brann’s and my opinion expect their elected officials to make thoughtful and sometimes difficult decisions and we did. The ballot question to increase the Commissioners from three to five is a direct result of that decision by us.
I’m not sure what the addition of two new Commissioners will do except cost the County taxpayers more in the long run. I believe five Commissioners working with the Budget Committee would have made the same difficult decision. Just for the record, nearly all the Counties in Maine exist, as they have for over 200 years, with three County Commissioners. Including the largest geographic counties of Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot and Washington Counties. So much for the argument that we need more Commissioners to give the rural citizens a better voice. Hopefully this answers the question as to why this matter is before the voters of Franklin County and as to why it’s unnecessary. I suggest a NO vote. Three is enough!