SKOWHEGAN – The Somerset County budget committee has scheduled a series of three meetings during the next two weeks to review the county budget and make recommendations.
A quick peek at the proposed accounts show a proposed increase of 19.5 percent, a figure that budget committee Chairman D. Dwight Dogherty said Wednesday is unacceptable. Last year’s budget, as proposed by county commissioners, reflected a 20 percent increase in taxes.
The county budget committee cut more than $125,000 from the original requests.
The group, however, has just begun the review process this year, Dogherty said, and does not have a clear direction yet. “I know that no one is going to be really happy with an increase in the high teens,” said Dogherty.
The big accounts have yet to be reviewed, he said. “We don’t have an adequate explanation of some needs,” he said.
Dogherty said that with overcrowding at the county jail, increases in that account are expected. “When you are housing 84 in a facility permitted for 48, there are going to be some additional costs,” he said. “We are also aware that a couple of extra dispatchers are needed at the communications center.”
In meetings already held, Dogherty said minor cuts have been made to the county commissioners’ proposal. “But we really haven’t gotten into the meat of the budget,” he said.
Last year, budget approval was delayed well into 2001 after commissioners and budget committee members disagreed about accounting practices and the failure to ratify a union contract with Teamster Local 340, which represents county employees.
This year, the county commissioners have requested a budget totaling $5.1 million.
Revenues are expected to increase only by a little more than $5,000, although tradition shows the county projections to be lower than what is actually collected. In 2000, for example, revenues were projected at $648,929 but $753,049 was collected. This year, $718,106 was projected and already $1.07 million has been collected.
Projections for 2002 show revenues at $706,104.
The meetings and their agendas are:
. 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19: sheriff, jail, federal grants, district attorney and jail capital reserve budgets.
. 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29: emergency management agency, telecommunications and commissioners budgets.
. 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1: charitable and service donations budgets, revisit unfinished budget items, schedule future meetings if needed, and public hearing on total budget.
All meetings will be held in the commissioners conference room on the first floor of the Somerset County Superior Courthouse.