Androscoggin commissioners patch up cash flow issue

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AUBURN — Facing a potential cash-flow problem, the Androscoggin County Commission voted Wednesday to temporarily increase its tax anticipation note by $400,000.

The cash shortage is the result of several factors, Treasurer Robert Poulin said. Nearly half of the amount — $185,000 — is is owed by the state for the jail.

The county expected to receive the funds by the end of July, Poulin said, but was delayed, in part, by the case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court over the governor’s vetoes, which was resolved last week. That money is expected shortly, Poulin said.

A tax anticipation note is a short-term loan used to finance the county’s operations. It will be repaid by future tax collections from the 14 municipalities.

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The original note, dated Jan. 5, 2015, and awarded to Androscoggin Bank, was for $4.4 million. The term for the $400,000 addition is 60 days, Poulin said.

The proposal, made by Commissioner Elaine Makas, passed unanimously.

In other business, Sheriff Eric Samson told the commissioners about the problems the counties are having awaiting a final decision by the state on a funding formula for the county jails.

The state is struggling to come up with a formula to divide the $12.2 million among the 15 county jails.

“There is not enough money out of the $12 million to provide for everybody to make them whole,” Samson said.

While Samson said the lawyers from the different organizations involved disagree on certain sections of the new law, which reversed the consolidation of the county jails, they all agree on one important issue: The new law does not provide a mechanism for counties accepting inmates from other facilities to charge boarding fees.

“That creates cash on hand, which is great, but it might cause us problems when it comes to boarding prisoners,” Samson said.

To relieve overcrowding, the Androscoggin County jail boards an average of 20 inmates each night at either Cumberland or Twin Bridges jails in Portland and Wiscasset, respectively.

The other major holdup is determining definitions for terms like head counts and average daily population, Samson said. In some scenarios, boarded prisoners get counted twice — once by the jail originally booking the inmate and once by the other jail accepting the boarder.

The jail that books the inmate is still responsible for his or her transportation and medical costs.

“While some counties feel that the money should follow the inmate, the law from everbody’s interpretation doesn’t say that,” he said.

Whatever the outcome, Androscoggin County is still facing a funding shortage for the jails. Much of that was created when the original bill passed by the Legislature that provided $14.7 million was cut to $12.2 million by the Appropriations Committee.

“Everybody felt the last-minute reduction in funding kind of didn’t serve a purpose and caused a lot of damage,” Samson said.

The commissioners concluded its regular meeting by holding an executive session with its attorney to discuss the pending lawsuit filed by the county municipalities. The issue is the board members setting their own salaries and also allegedly approving the budget in violation of state law. 

Commissioners later went back into executive session during a workshop to interview candidates for the new county administrator position.

ssherlock@sunjournal.com

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