DOVER-FOXCROFT – Piscataquis County commissioners on Tuesday approved the 2004 budget for the county after a few last-minute revisions.
Those changes included a one-time adjustment in the salaries of the registrars of probate and deeds and of the sheriff to increase their wages relative to that of their deputies.
Elected officials are not eligible for longevity increases that other county employees receive. In some instances, supervisors are making about the same amount of money as the employees they supervise. To correct the situation, the commissioners had proposed a 10 percent increase for department heads in 2004, but the Piscataquis County Budget Advisory Committee strongly recommended that such an increase be phased in over three years.
Had an adjustment not been made in Registrar of Probate Judy Raymond’s salary, she would have made about $50 more than her deputy, who has less seniority, next year.
Judge of Probate Douglas Smith strongly suggested to the commissioners Tuesday that they should compensate the registrars for their worth as supervisors.
“I would like to see a larger spread,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said, before he recommended and the commissioners voted, to make a “one-time” adjustment for next year. With the adjustment, Raymond’s salary will increase from $22,921 to $25,000; Registrar of Deeds Linda Smith’s salary will advance from $24,833 to $27,000, and Sheriff John Goggin’s salary will increase from $42,907 to $45,000. Lizotte said the board should come up with a long-term plan to address the salaries of department heads. For now, he said the adjustment “creates fairness and buys us some time so we can do it a bit more scientifically next year.”
Also included in the budget, which will be signed by the commissioners next week, is a 3 percent increase in the base wage for nonunion employees. The commissioners had initially proposed increasing the base wage in 2004 from $6.82 to $8.50 per hour, but the advisory committee recommended that, too, be phased in over a three-year period. As approved Tuesday, the new base rate will be $7.38 per hour.
The commissioners removed $15,000 from the contingency account and included that in program grants for a local match in the event the county receives a strategic planning grant.
With these and other smaller changes, the overall budget increase from last year was reduced from about 16 percent to about 10 percent, according to Commissioner Eben DeWitt. A total of $2.446 million will need to be raised through taxation to support county government in 2004.
The budget for unorganized territories, which operates from July 1, 2003, through June 2005, was approved Tuesday without change. The $963,290 spending plan requires a tax assessment of $721,385.