County commissioners hold off on final budget vote

ELLSWORTH — The Hancock County Commissioners spent Friday morning poring over proposed FY 2016 budget numbers but decided to wait before voting on a final budget.

The board will discuss and possibly vote Jan. 22 on a FY 2016 budget.

“If we don’t sign the budget what are they going to do, send the budget police after us?” Commissioner Percy “Joe” Brown asked.

Maine statute sets the county budget deadline. Commissioners are to act on the next fiscal year budget no later than 15 days before the start of the new year, according to county Personnel Coordinator Cynthia DePrenger. That puts the deadline at Dec. 16.

But, there is no budget police.

If a budget isn’t passed by the deadline, the county operates on the existing or previous fiscal year budget until a new budget is adopted.

County Administrator Eugene Conlogue explained, that the commissioners “want to see the last warrants for the current fiscal year before they make any final decisions.”

Right now, the proposed budget for FY 16 totals $8,291,535. That includes the general fund and the Hancock County Jail.

That budget would mean a proposed tax bill of $5,805.310 to be spread among Hancock County’s 37 municipalities.

However, county officials are working to reduce that figure by $400,000 to get it down to $5.4 million to be raised by taxation.

A $5.4-million property tax bill would be an increase of roughly $90,000 over the amount raised by taxes for the county coffers this year.

The FY 16 budget is “still a moving target as far as a bottom line,” Conlogue said.

The county is looking at a shortfall of about $85,000.

“That’s the potential gap we have in the 2016 budget,” Conlogue said. By waiting, “it gives them at least a better picture of where we are financially. Hopefully at that point we’ll have whatever data they feel is necessary to have.”

The board needs to have the new budget voted in time to send tax bills out to municipalities before their annual town meetings start.

Commissioner Steve Joy said he thought there are town meetings in February and March.

“I don’t think there are any town meetings in January,” Joy said.

Issues contributing to a potentially higher budget include the jail budget, which has a state funding shortfall.

“The other part is we got hit with a big worker’s comp increase that takes effect January 1,” the administrator said.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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