Do you know how much of your property taxes are used to support county government? Farmington residents pay roughly 5 percent of their property taxes toward county operations. So, what do residents get for that 5 percent?

County government in Maine provides regional services. Franklin County government is now more than 180 years old and has historically served residents very well. Last year, $6.25 million provided residents with a jail, sheriff’s department, district attorney services, probate, registry of deeds, emergency management, 911 communications, and economic and community development services — a good deal for the money.

But I am concerned that priority for services has shifted drastically, and residents need to be aware of the consequences.

Last year, the Franklin County Commissioners voted 2-1 to cut more than half of the requested funds for Economic and Community Development services by $140,000. The commissioners announced plans to continue to cut those programs again this year and next. Six organizations were eliminated from receiving any funds this year — Greater Franklin Development Council, Androscoggin Home Health and Hospice, Adult Education, Tri -County Mental Health Services, Franklin County Children’s Task Force, and Sexual Assault and Rape Prevention Services. Three other organizations — Western Maine Community Action, Seniors Plus and Western Maine Transportation — have had services funding request slashed by 70 percent by the commissioners in a 2-1 vote last week.

These agencies have been under the budget knife at the county level now for 10 years. In 2008, the county funded these programs for $300,000; in 2019, that will drop to less than $75,000.

The reasons I have heard for cutting economic and community development programs is they are too expensive for taxpayers; it is not the role of government to fund these services; or there is fraud in all those programs.


I am an average taxpayer in Farmington. My share of the county tax is $120. The amount of money I saved last year on those economic and community development programs cuts was $4.93. I would rather the county keep my money and focus on helping the elderly stay in their own homes with services; help improve the local economy through broadband expansion; and assure young children and families that there is an opportunity to thrive in this community .

I am pleased with the regional service I receive. There is comfort that if I need to call 911, it feels like a neighbor is helping me out. Androscoggin Home Health and Hospice workers influence all of us as we age with home health visits and hospice services. The work of Community Action, Seniors Plus and Western Maine Transportation and others make sure the safety net is there when a crisis hits.

We are a community that cares about each other, and we all strive to leave it better than what we found it.

The county commissioners do not have the last say in developing the budget. The county has a budget committee made up of nine people who review and finalize it. The budget committee will meet three times in May at the County Courthouse in Farmington to finalize the budget. The meetings are open to the public. I hope that members of the different communities ask questions of their own boards of selectmen about what is happening at the county and if it is right for their town.

I was pleased that the town of Farmington has signaled that all the budget cutting is not the right direction for the county to be heading in. Residents at the Farmington town meeting on March 26 voted overwhelmingly to allocate their share of the savings realized by the county cuts — $18,000 — back to the nine economic and community development organizations impacted. The town also passed a resolution asking the county commissioners to continue funding regional economic and community development services. Those regional services are vital to communities and residents in the county.

Fenwick Fowler retired from Western Maine Community Action in 2015 after 40 years of service, 24 of those years as executive director. He has followed the Franklin County budget for 35 years. He lives in Farmington.

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