AUBURN — Androscoggin County settled its 2013 budget at lightning speed Wednesday, taking just four minutes to hold a public hearing and poll the Budget Committee on its $10.1 million spending package.
There was no public comment and no debate.
A few minutes later, the three-member County Commission officially ratified the budget, which will see a nearly $15,000 decline in the tax levy, from $8,007,904 in 2012 to $7,992,918 in 2013.
"There's not tons of extra money lying around, and we're trying to be very, very conscious of the people in our county and their pocketbooks," Commissioner Elaine Makas said.
Despite the 0.19 percent decline in the levy, spending is going up. Total expenditures are rising 1.81 percent, from $9,992,749 to $10,173,249.
About $176,000 will be raised from the newly created dispatching fees charged to 12 county towns. The money will allow the county dispatch center to continue answering emergency phone calls in every Androscoggin community except Lewiston and Auburn, which operate an independent dispatch center.
The fees were created by the commission as a compromise, charging only the towns which use the dispatch service while easing costs for the cities that don't.
It was controversial. People on both sides were expected to speak out on the plan, but neither showed Wednesday.
"I actually expected there to be more people here," Budget Committee Chairman Michael Bowie said when it was over.
Perhaps they knew he would silence talk that focused on policy rather than the committee's direct financial oversight, he said.
Two weeks ago, he kicked off his meeting with a warning against such talk, saying policy was set by the commissioners, not his committee. Though dozens of people attended the meeting, few spoke.
A last-minute attempt to delay the fees by the cities — led by Lewiston deputy city administrator and Budget Committee member Phil Nadeau — failed at that meeting. On Wednesday, Nadeau was absent.