AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Budget Committee inched its way through the budgets of three departments at Wednesday night’s meeting.

It was the first of five scheduled meetings in October to review the proposed 2016 county budget.

As expected, none of the county commissioners attended the meeting nor did County Treasurer Robert Poulin, even though Poulin and four of the commissioners were in the building for their regular meeting, which ended roughly 20 minutes before the Budget Committee meeting.

The commissioners submitted the 2016 county budget that the panel is now reviewing.

Budget Committee members said their absence slowed the process needlessly and made its work much more difficult. The committee reviewed budgets for the Registry of Deeds, Registry of Probate and the facility department, which maintains both the courthouse and jail.

It took the committee 4 hours, 15 minutes to review the three department budgets line by line.

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“It’s commendable that all 14 Budget Committee members were here beyond the expected time frame,” Budget Committee Chairwoman Emily Darby said. “The reason for the long night is because we didn’t have the information and it made the process more cumbersome.

“We hope the voters are paying attention and the taxpayers are paying attention. We’ll let the commissioners’ actions or non-actions speak for themselves,” she said.

Without the commissioners present to provide answers and clarification on several budget items, the Budget Committee proceeded slowly and expressed their frustration numerous times during the evening.

Committee members pointed to last year when commissioners attended those sessions to assist in the deliberations.

“It was a good exchange of ideas,” Anthony Reny, a Greene selectman, said of last year’s process. ‘If we were stuck on something, we could get the information and move along.”

Without the commissioners, that left the department heads to fend for themselves during the scrutiny of their budgets without full knowledge of the submitted numbers.

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The committee members praised the department heads for appearing before them to try to answer their questions. Facilities Director David Cote received high praise for his detailed presentation of his budget.

Still seeking answers on several budget items, the Budget Committee did make a few cuts — $400 from the Registry of Deeds, $1,700 from the Registry of Probate and $700 from the facilities budget.

The committee postponed discussion on the district attorney’s budget until next week since District Attorney Andrew Robinson was not at the meeting.

The next Budget Committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Superior Court.

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