Proposed legislation not filed to change county budget statute

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FARMINGTON — Maine legislators may have submitted 1,780 bills to be considered this session, but changing the Franklin County budget statute is not one of them.

The deadline to submit proposed legislation for consideration was Friday.

Franklin County Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay had talked about having a local legislator file proposed legislation to try to change the county budget statute to give commissioners final authority over annual budgets.

“I have not filed legislation to change our present county budget process at this time,” McGrane said Tuesday. “I will be watching very closely the process we are still using in the ensuing months and then reassess what should be tried, or maybe abandon the whole idea.”

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During a county commission meeting on Jan. 15, McGrane said the county’s budget advisory committee may have overstepped its bounds and micromanaged county government during the 2012-13 budget process. He proposed submitting legislation, but wanted to discuss it more with the two other commissioners.

Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon said during the meeting that he did not agree with McGrane and wanted to keep the process the way it is.

Chairman Clyde Barker of Strong said he felt commissioners should have the final say over the end balances in the budget.

Budget advisory committee members in attendance also opposed any change, stating they represented the taxpayers and were part of the checks and balances.

McGrane pointed out Jan. 15 that during the 2012-13 budget process, the budget advisory committee cut part-time elected officials’ flex benefits and nixed the commissioners’ plan to pave the county’s Church Street parking lot. They also made other changes commissioners had approved in their proposed budget.

According to the statute covering Franklin County’s budget process, Franklin County commissioners submit itemized finance estimates in the form of a budget to the budget advisory committee to review. The committee prepares a budget. County commissioners may not further increase, decrease, alter or revise the budget adopted by the committee, except by unanimous vote. If the adopted budget is changed by the county commissioners, the 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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