AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office escaped relatively unscathed Wednesday night following the Budget Committee’s third meeting to review the 2019 county budget.
The committee recommended the County Commission cut $1,500 from the $5,000 vacation buyback line in the sheriff’s patrol budget.
The remainder of the accounts overseen by the sheriff — including civil process, communications/dispatch and the jail — were accepted as presented by the 14-member committee.
Most of the Budget Committee’s attention Wednesday centered on Sheriff’s Eric Samson’s patrol budget, with members questioning several budget lines.
Looking at the historical data of how much was spent each year, Andrew Titus of Auburn attempted to cut $1,000 from the repairs and equipment line, reasoning that the department never spends more than $3,000, making the $3,800 request more than necessary. The rest of the panel opposed that bid in a 2-12 vote.
Seeking a compromise, Anthony Reny of Greene sought an $800 cut, leaving the budget line at an even $3,000. While the committee supported that maneuver by a 9-5 margin, it failed to receive the supermajority 11 votes necessary to become an official recommendation to the County Commission.
Believing a membership in the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce was unnecessary, Pauline Gudas of Lewiston moved to cut $300 from the budget that pays the chamber’s membership dues, but the rest of the panel disagreed, by a 3-11 vote, with Titus and Robert Sevigny of Auburn joining Gudas in voting yes.
In reviewing the budget, the panel expressed frustration in trying to make decisions while not always having all of the facts. Several members , notably Allen Ward of Lisbon and Kristen Cloutier of Lewiston, complained about misleading or inaccurate budget figures.
County Administrator Larry Post agreed, pointing out that mistakes were likely made while transitioning to a new treasurer after the previous one died in office earlier this year. Post promised the situation would be corrected.
The Budget Committee also reviewed and passed the upcoming capital expenditures for 2019, which total more than $445,000.
Proposed revenues also received much attention from the panel. Ward suggested commissioners adjust fees the county charges towns for certain services, including police, fire and rescue. He said the amounts charged have not kept pace with inflation, especially since they are contracted at three-year intervals
Ward also noted civil fees could easily be increased, since those figures have not changed since 2016.
The Budget Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the budget for Nov. 1. Before then, the panel will also finalize its recommendations and send them to the county commissioners, who have final say on the budget.
With supermajority votes, the budget committee has proposed commissioners cut $16,500 from next year’s budget.
Androscoggin County Building in Auburn.