SKOWHEGAN – The Somerset County commissioners will present their proposed $4.6 million budget Wednesday night, a budget that is considerably higher than last year’s, yet $150,000 smaller than what was originally proposed earlier this fall.
Many of the increases were propelled by one-time expenditures, including a new debt of $140,000 borrowed to pay for overages at the new Somerset County Communications Center. The bottom line of the budget is 20 percent higher than last year but some of that increase will be dropped by using money from undesignated fund balances. The final budget figure is estimated to be $3.9 million, after using about $700,000 in surplus funds and estimated revenues.
Somerset County Budget Committee Chairman D. Dwight Dogherty said that he also expects some committee members will be opposed to several different spending areas. Dogherty said the commissioners’ decision to fund the Register of Probate’s position at its previous level is being heavily objected to. The newly elected person, who will start with entry-level experience, replaces a 21-year veteran in the position.
Dogherty said that in the business world, someone inexperienced in a position would not get the same starting salary as the experienced person they replaced. He said, however, that keeping the salary at the previous level was a policy decision, which does not fall under the budget committee’s guidelines.
Dogherty said the budget committee also disagreed with another policy decision made last month by the commissioners to offer full family insurance coverage for themselves. Under that plan, said Dogherty, incoming commissioner Tracey H. Rotondi, who indicated at a recent board meeting that she would sign up for the insurance, would receive about $10,000 in benefits, while she gets paid $7,500 annually.
Last year, the budget committee cut more than $260,000 from the commissioners’ proposed $4.6 million budget. In a hastily called meeting that was not publicly announced, the commissioners rejected that proposal, putting $1,260 back in that had been removed by the committee. By removing that money, said the commissioners, the Somerset County Extension Service would have lost $25,000 in federal and state grants.
The public budget hearing will be held at 7 p.m. tonight in the Somerset County Superior courtroom.