Commissioners to discuss Franklin County budget law

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FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners are planning to discuss the county’s budgetary statute Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Franklin County Courthouse.

There is no specific time designated to the item, due to a long agenda. The commissioners will hold three tax abatement appeals from residents in the town of New Vineyard beginning at 9 a.m. with one following the other.

Franklin County Clerk Julie Magoon has reviewed budget statutes for the 16 counties in the state as she was directed to do by commissioners.

During the budget process in 2012, the Franklin County Budget Advisory Committee held a public hearing on a proposed budget. The committee did not act on the budget at that time.

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Instead, another meeting was held on a different day. At that meeting the budget committee proposed cutting flex benefits in half for part-time elected county officials, namely three commissioners and the treasurer. It was approved but was never presented to the public during a hearing.

Each county has its own statute governing the budgetary process, Magoon said Thursday.

In general, nine counties called the budget committee either a budget committee or a finance committee, she wrote in an email to commissioners.

In seven of those counties the budget committee has the final say on the budget and in the other two the county commissioners have the final approval.

Seven counties have advisory budget committees, including Franklin County, she wrote.

In three counties the budget advisory committee has the final approval and in four counties commissioners have the final approval.

Selectmen in each of the three Franklin County districts caucus to see who is elected to serve on the budget committee.

“It is important to note of all the counties who have an advisory budget committee, Franklin is the only one required to submit an itemized budget to the advisory committee,” she wrote.

All the other counties are required to submit either a budget estimate or draft budget.

Of all the statutes she reviewed, she said, she selected four which she thinks are worth discussing: Hancock, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Piscataquis.

Lincoln and Sagadahoc have advisory committees that commissioners submit a budget estimate to, and the role of the advisory committee is to recommend changes.

The commissioners have total control of the budget in these two counties.

Hancock has an advisory committee to whom the commissioners submit a budget estimate to, the advisory committee can make changes to the budget, but the commissioners have the final vote if it is unanimous, she wrote.

Piscataquis submits an itemized budget to the budget committee, but the budget committee can only offer recommendations to the commissioners and cannot change the budget, she wrote.

According to the statute covering Franklin County’s budget process, the Franklin County commissioners submit itemized finance estimates in the form of a budget to the advisory committee no later than 60 days before the end of the county’s fiscal year. The advisory committee reviews the estimated budget prepared by county commissioners.

The advisory committee prepares a proposed budget and may increase, decrease or alter the estimated budget as long as it follows the budgetary statute.

The committee holds a public hearing on the proposed budget and then acts on it. County commissioners may not further increase, decrease, alter or revise the budget adopted by the advisory committee, except by unanimous vote of the county commissioners. If the adopted budget is changed by the county commissioners, the advisory committee may reject that change by a two-thirds vote of its membership. Those actions are final and are not subject to further action by either the county commissioners or the advisory committee.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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