Androscoggin budget panel cuts wage increases for probate department

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AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Budget Committee cut much of the planned salary increases for two elected officials in the Registry of Probate department.

The Budget Committee on Wednesday cut $7,423 from the salary line during its review of the 2018 county budget. 

After two weeks and 13 department budgets analyzed, it’s the first time that the panel has adjusted a salary and wages line.

One of the lowest paid in the state, the Judge of Probate was scheduled to receive a $10,000 increase, a nearly 50 percent jump from its current salary due to an extra 10 evidentiary hearings and floating court dates per year. The county commissioners had also agreed to provide a 3½ percent raise ($596.60) for the Register of Probate position, which hasn’t seen an increase since 2014.

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Androscoggin is the only county in Maine whose Register of Probate is a part-time employee.

Looking to hold the line on county taxes, which are scheduled to increase by 5.7 percent, the Budget Committee felt the increase in salary plus the annual step increases for the office workers in the department were too rich during a tight budget cycle. The panel cut the $14,000 increase in the proposed budget by more than half.

County Administrator Larry Post said the panel did not specify whose salary would be cut and by how much.

Probate also had another $1,725 cut from other line items in its budget. The largest line-item reduction was $500 for postage.

The Budget Committee reviewed seven departments, and cut nearly $25,000 from next years’s bottom line during Wednesday’s budget review.

The largest cut of the evening came from legal fees in the commissioner’s budget. While some members wanted an even steeper cut, the panel settled on a $10,000 reduction from the $30,000 budgeted.

After years of paying high legal fees, this year’s budgeted amount was $60,000, which was a small reduction from the previous year. The county, though, has spent $0 so far in 2017.

Commissioners also cut another $700 from its budget. The panel also cut $3,500 from the building account and $2,500 from Information Technology.

Not everybody was cut. The treasurer had $1,030 added to his budget.

The Budget Committee also filled one of its two vacancies, approving the selection of Bob Sevigny of Auburn. The other vacant seat is in District 3, which includes Durham, Greene and part of Lewiston.

Two more Budget Committee meetings are planned to review the remainder of the 2018 budget. The next session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the county courthouse.

ssherlock@sunjournal.com

Androscoggin County Building in Auburn. 

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