FARMINGTON — Voters in the Franklin County Commission’s District 1 will consider a contested race on Election Day, the only contested county position.

District 1 comprises Carthage, Jay, Temple and Wilton.

Gary McGrane of Jay, a Democrat, is being challenged by Terrance “Terry” Brann of Wilton, a Republican, for a four-year term.

McGrane has held the position for about 27 years.

Brann is a former Wilton selectman and former member of the Franklin County Budget Advisory Committee.

The men maintain they will work to keep the tax rate stable. They also agreed that it is important for commissioners and the county’s budget committee to work together to develop a responsible budget.

The Sun Journal asked each candidate the same questions.

The first question was what they believe should be done to keep the tax rate from continuing to rise.

Since 2011, the county tax rate has risen 17 cents to the current rate of $1.17 per $1,000 of property value. The town of Jay has paid the highest share of taxes for the budget for years. However, Jay’s state valuation has declined more than $275 million since 2014, which means the other towns in the county will most likely pay a higher share.

“I served on the county budget committee for three years,” Brann said. “During my membership on the committee, I spent many hours scrutinizing the budget, trying to spend taxpayer dollars wisely while maintaining essential services. I plan to maintain this effort. I will ask every department to keep this in mind and do their best to keep expenses level.”

McGrane said he had no control over the valuation or the school district or town budgets.

“Compared to these other taxes, the tax rate in Franklin County is very modest,” he said. “I intend on keeping the county tax rate down with the help and support of the budget committee. This year, we did not increase taxes. The mill rate was the same as last year. As a county commissioner, I have kept the overall budget at or below previous year’s budgets, and I will continue to do that in the future.”

During the annual budget process, commissioners and the county Budget Advisory Committee, made up of nine selectmen from towns within the county, review a proposed budget. Following a public hearing, the advisory committee adopts a final budget and it sends it back to commissioners. Commissioners can only make a change to the budget adopted by the budget panel by unanimous vote of commissioners. If a change is made, the budget goes back to the advisory committee, which may reject that change by a two-thirds vote of its membership. Those actions are final.

During the budget process this year, the budget committee removed about $25,000 from a proposed $6.1 million budget targeted for a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for nonunion employees. Commissioners voted in July to give nonunion employees the 2 percent raise with the money to come out of department operation budgets.

Candidates were asked if they felt this was an end-run around the budget committee’s intent. If so, how do they feel it should have been handled?

“The budget committee makes recommendations on the overall budget,” McGrane said. “It is the responsibility of the Franklin County Commissioners to manage that budget, based on the bottom line. As long as we do not exceed the budgeted amount, we are within our right to exercise responsibility in managing the line items within the budget.”

Commissioners wanted “to be fair to all the county employees and the taxpayers, and if we could stay within budget, we would honor both groups at the same time,” he said. “This is what we were elected to do: to be fair, honest and work in the best interests of all citizens in Franklin County. There was no end-run around the budget committee’s intent. The tax rate will not be affected this year or next because of our action. The county commissioners have given a small but important boost to our local economy by providing a few more dollars in our employees’ pockets.”

Brann said it was a difficult question to answer since he is not a commissioner and was not involved in the decision-making process.  

“It is vitally important that the budget committee and commissioners work hand- in-hand in making decisions,” he said.

Candidates were also asked to describe the role of the advisory panel.

Brann said that the budget committee’s role is to review and scrutinize the recommended budget and make whatever changes are necessary to adequately maintain essential services at the least burden to Franklin County taxpayers. 

The committee’s role is to advise and to make recommendations, McGrane said.

“How they do that is up to them,” McGrane said. “However, it is not their responsibility to dictate where and when additions or deletions should be made. That is the responsibility of the commissioners. We all share in the process, and we should all be held responsible for the budget.”

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FARMINGTON — Franklin County has three uncontested elections at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

District 2 Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington, a Republican, is seeking election to a four-year term to represent the towns of Chesterville, Farmington and New Sharon.

Also running uncontested are Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. of New Sharon, a Republican, who is seeking a second four-year term.

Register of Probate Joyce Morton of Farmington, also a Republican, is seeking another four-year term to the position she has held for 33 years.

Residence: Wilton

Age: 71

Profession: Retired graphic arts instructor at Central Maine Community College

Residence: Jay

Age: 65

Profession: Retired


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