AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission is considering a proposal to combine its meetings with the Budget Committee during next fall’s budget season.

Combining the meetings when department heads present their budgets would lead to a “more fruitful, abbreviated budget process,” commission Chairman Zachary Maher of Poland said.

The idea was first brought up at Wednesday’s meeting by Lewiston Commissioner Noel Madore while commissioners were considering setting up a master calendar for the year.

Nearly the entire preliminary calendar presented was consumed by the budget schedule, lasting from Aug. 15 through Nov. 14.

Maher and Commissioner Sally Christner of Turner reacted favorably to Madore’s idea of having department heads in the county make one budget presentation instead of making separate presentations to commissioners and the Budget Committee a month apart.

“If we sit in the same room, we can bounce ideas off of each other,” Maher said.

Commissioner Isaiah Lary of Wales did not like changing a process that has been in use for several years. He felt having both groups meeting at the same time would create confusion with two chairmen in charge, and it could interfere with the Budget Committee’s role in reviewing the budget.

“I think we need to avoid going down this route,” Lary said.

County Administrator Larry Post concurred, saying it would be difficult to change the process.

The current process, as defined in the county charter, states that commissioners will review the administrator’s preliminary budget, hold a public hearing, make any changes necessary and present it to the Budget Committee.

The Budget Committee will then review each account, make changes during deliberations, hold another public hearing and present its proposed budget to commissioners for final adoption.

There is nothing now that prevents commissioners and Budget Committee members from attending each other’s meetings. A handful of members do attend each other’s meetings during the budget process and are given an opportunity to ask questions.  

The proposed change could shorten the three-month process and allow members of both boards to work more closely together. While the two groups have had some contentious budget sessions over the past few years, both groups and Post praised the cooperation shown during the 2017 process.

Wishing to seek input from the Budget Committee, Maher instructed Post to reach out to get its feedback for the commissioners’ next meeting on April 18.

In other business:

• Any topic that is on the agenda and requires a vote is sent to commissioners on the Friday prior to Wednesdays’s meeting. Lary expressed concern that the same policy is not being used for informational reports from the administrator and department heads. While no other commissioner spoke out to say it was a problem, and a few stressed it wasn’t a problem, Lary asked that the issue be added to the next meeting’s agenda.

• Post said he had 14 candidates for the vacant treasurer’s job. Interviews are scheduled to start next week.

• Commissioners went into executive session to discuss the condition, acquisition or use of property for economic development.


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