AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Budget Committee got its first look at the 2018 spending plan Wednesday night and zipped through the first six departments without making any cuts.
But rubber-stamping the rest of the budget proposed by the county commissioners is unlikely moving forward.
Several members of the committee said their goal is to reduce the proposed 5.79 percent tax increase, especially after the tax rate jumped 6.44 percent in 2017.
The 2016 budget increase was less than 3 percent.
“We need to find the hidden spots where we can cut back,” Committee Chairman Michael Lachance of Lewiston said.
Saying that is what the Lewiston City Council has done during its budget deliberations, Lachance described the process as “a labor of love-hate, but it needs to be done.”
With just nine of 14 committee members present, the panel reviewed the Emergency Management Agency budget and five department budgets overseen by District Attorney Andrew Robinson.
Committee members praised longtime EMA director Joanne Potvin for presenting a budget that cut more than $4,000 from last year’s budget.
Next up was Robinson, who also escaped unscathed for now. Despite the commissioners cutting $3,400 from Robinson’s original line item request for electricity, Andrew Titus of Auburn thought efficiencies already in place in the D.A.’s office could save the county taxpayers even more money — perhaps another $2,000.
The committee decided to keep the electricity line budgeted at $12,000, but Titus requested that they revisit the item later for a possible adjustment.
The committee, consisting mostly of municipal officials, began Wednesday’s meeting by re-electing Lachance as chairman and Norman Beauparlant of Poland as vice chairman.
Two vacancies remain on the Budget Committee – District 3, which includes Durham, Greene and part of Lewiston, and District 5, which includes part of Auburn.
The commissioners and budget committee have had a contentious relationship the past few years, but none of that was evident Wednesday. Committee member Anthony Reny of Greene noted the change, saying it was nice to see all the commissioners present and “smiling.”
Three more Wednesday meetings are planned to review the rest of the budget: Sept. 27, Oct. 11 and Oct. 18. The committee plans to hold a public hearing and finalize the budget Nov. 1.
The budget returns to commissioners for final ratification.
Androscoggin County Building in Auburn.