Androscoggin commissioners adopt preliminary budget

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AUBURN — Arguing against Androscoggin County Commissioner Isaiah Lary’s attempt to cut all funding for the four outside agencies seeking assistance from the county, some of his colleagues stressed the matching funds those organizations receive Wednesday night.

The commissioner from Wales was unmoved, saying the money still comes from somewhere, namely taxpayers.

“Matching funds are a gateway drug, frankly,” Lary said.

That discussion came during the commissioners meeting to adopt the preliminary 2018 county budget. Commissioners succeeded in cutting roughly $50,000 from the $13.7 million budget during the four-hour meeting.

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Far from complete, the budget, as it now stands, would raise county taxes by 5.8 percent.

The bulk of cuts Wednesday came from voting against funding the Western Maine Transportation Services, an on-demand bus service that serves Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. While the latter two counties provide some funding, Androscoggin never has, though a few county municipalities do fund the service.

WMTS was hoping for $42,500 to help offset the more than 87,000 trips it makes in Androscoggin County in the past year.

The commissioners praised the agency, but some felt it was the wrong time to fund another outside agency during a tight budget process.

Lary also felt it was wrong to provide county funds paid for by taxpayers that had voted against funding WMTS during their municipal budget process.

Commission Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner and Matthew Roy of Lewiston agreed with Lary and voted no in a 3-2 vote to deny funding. Noel Madore of Lewiston and Afreda Fournier of Auburn voted against cutting funding. Zakk Maher of Poland recused himself, while Melissa Willette of Lewiston was absent.

Commissioners also did not fund Time & Tide Resource Conservation and Development Area.

Despite Lary’s pleading, commissioners had no desire to cut any funds for the other two outside organizations, granting $49,557 to Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties Extension Association and $14,000 to Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District — the same as both received last year.

Commissioners reviewed each department’s budget Wednesday, making only a few cuts. Lary was seeking further reductions, but many of his recommendations failed to gain any support or the department heads provided enough rationale to convince him to abandon the cuts.

Among cuts commissioners unanimously adopted were $3,400 from the district attorney’s budget for electricity and $1,024 from the treasurer’s budget for statutes and reference books.

Before commissioners began reviewing the budget, they held a scheduled public hearing, but no one from the public attended.

The only people in the audience were county department heads and two members of the Budget Committee — Norman Beauparlant of Poland and Allen Ward of Lisbon.

The budget goes to the Budget Committee, which will likely make additional cuts before sending it back to commissioners for final adoption. Its first meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 20.

ssherlock@sunjournal.com

Androscoggin County Building in Auburn. 

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