AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission completed its work for 2016 by adopting the 2017 county budget that will raise the county portion on residents’ property tax bills by 6.44 percent. 

The budget, which passed by a 5-1 vote Wednesday, included two changes to the recommendations made by the Budget Committee.

Commissioners added $125,000 for the clock tower renovation project, taking funds from the building reserve account to cover the transaction without any additional money from taxpayers.

The board also added $15,000 to its legal fees account, for a total of $60,000. The additional funding will be covered by a reserve account if the money is needed.

While final figures are not yet available, legal fees have cost the county more than $70,000 in 2016.

The 2017 budget includes total county expenditures of more than $13 million. With expected revenues of $3.9 million, commissioners set the tax levy at more than $9.1 million. County taxes will go up 6.44 percent.

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“This was a difficult budget,” Commissioner Randall Greenwood of Wales said. “It is the highest budget that I’ve seen in all of my years here.”

Greenwood added that the county provides the municipalities with many services and did not wish to see those services cut.

He also noted that the amount to be raised by taxes was exactly the same as that recommended by the Budget Committee last month. A large number of the 14-member Budget Committee is made up of municipal government officials throughout the county.

Melissa Willette of Lewiston was the lone commissioner to vote against the budget. Elaine Makas was absent.

Two weeks ago, commissioners had adjourned, believing they had adopted the new budget, but no vote was ever taken. That forced the board to add the item to Wednesday’s agenda to correct their error.

Commissioners also reappointed Robert Poulin as treasurer and finance director. Originally hired to serve one-year terms, Poulin will now serve as treasurer indefinitely.

Commissioner Alfreda Fournier at first objected to the discussion because the issue was not on the agenda, but she soon joined her colleagues in a 6-0 vote.

Wednesday was the final meeting for outgoing Commissioners Greenwood, Makas and Beth Bell, whose terms end the first of the year. Their replacements — Isaiah Lary, Noel Madore and Zak Maher— were in attendance Wednesday.

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