AUBURN — Agreeing that replacing a jail investigator was a priority, the Androscoggin County Budget Committee made enough cuts in the Sheriff’s Department budget to fund the vacancy next year.

The Budget Committee completed the review of the proposed 2016 county budget Thursday night. The committee is expected to approve the budget next week and send it back to the county commissioners for a public hearing.

Thursday’s meeting focused on the final two departments — the sheriff’s budget and the communications and dispatch budget.

Much of the discussion focused on the need of a jail investigator. The position was formerly funded through the jail budget, but was cut during the preliminary discussions with the commissioners, when more than $650,000 had to be eliminated from the jail budget due to state statute that limits the amount the jail budget can increase.

The investigator position was one of the casualties. The position, which would be a sheriff’s employee but contract with the jail, was never added back into the sheriff’s budget.

The Budget Committee initially supported adding the position, but failed to garner the 11 votes needed for a supermajority. Committee member Michael Marcotte of Lewiston, who voted no, said he would support funding the position if his colleagues could make enough cuts in the budget to cover the salary.

Going line-by-line, the Budget Committee cut $8,000 from the gasoline account and hundreds of dollars from several other budget lines.

After the committee only cut $11,120 — well short of the $42,000 needed to fund it for an entire year — Sheriff Eric Samson offered to delay upgrading some of his proposed computer software and hardware upgrades, eliminating $9,800 from his $35,344 request.

With half the money needed, Durham selectman Jeffrey Wakeman moved to fund the investigator position for six months starting July 1. The motion passed unanimously.

The committee then had to add $12,181 to employee benefits to cover the investigator’s health and dental insurance, Maine State Retirement and Social Security for six months.

Substantive budget cuts were made in the communication department. When the budget was proposed, the county was anticipating that the town of Lisbon would have the county take over its dispatching service. But Lisbon voted to keep its service.

Without the need for system upgrades to handle increased volume of calls and record management, the committee cut $114,000 from that department. That leaves the budget below last year’s level, not counting money already appropriated through the reserve account for upgrades and capital improvements.

With the initial review of the 2016 budget complete, the Budget Committee will meet at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 4, at Superior Court, to revisit some accounts and make adjustments.

After approving the budget, the committee will meet with the county commissioners for a public hearing on Nov. 18.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.