ROCKLAND – The Knox County budget committee and commissioners Thursday night approved a $9.1 million county budget for 2009, reflecting an increase of less than 1 percent.
In a surprise move, however, budget committee member Sidney Lindsley of Camden at the last minute shaved $200,000 to keep the amount to be taxed to the towns the same as last year’s assessment at $6.44 million and have no increase.
“We’ve got to show the people in the county that we’ve got to do what we can do to hold the line,” Lindsley said.
Budget committee vice chairman Robert Duke of Rockport seconded Lindsley’s motion, stating that there has been a threefold increase in his town for general assistance this month. “Sid’s right,” he said. “We’ve got to send a message.”
County Administrator Andrew Hart was asked to find the $200,000 in surplus.
Committee member James Bowers of Washington observed that the county would be digging into its own pockets to come up with the $200,000.
Budget committee chairwoman Ann Matlack was not happy with Lindsley’s motion, however, and called his move “grandstanding,” but the motion carried in a 4-2 vote, with Matlack and Dorothy Meriwether opposing.
“To come in at the last minute and suggest that we cut $200,000 is poor timing,” Matlack said.
Meriwether was concerned about the mathematical basis for the cut with no justification in the accounting of the budget.
County treasurer Kathy Robinson said the surplus stands at $964,000 now, or 13 percent of the expenditures.
The county is required to carry between 10 and 12 percent of its expenditures in surplus, she said.
At first the committee tried working with another set of figures that were offered, but that motion was not approved.
“The amount you tax towns is that figure, period,” Lindsley said of the $6.44 million.
Before the evening ended, Matlack had worked out the figures with County Administrator Hart to justify the cut in the assessment.
The county commissioners, who watched the budget committee’s drama from their seats in the front of the meeting room, voted only on the budget itself, as it was presented, and not on the budget committee’s measure to level-fund the assessment.