FARMINGTON — Members of the Franklin County Budget Committee cycled through several rounds of proposals for funding nonprofits and social services Monday night, adding to an ongoing debate in the county over whether taxpayers should help fund nonprofits.

At the heart of Monday night’s debate was the question of whether to side with county commissioners, who are recommending no funding for the group Western Maine Transportation, or to go ahead with the group’s request for $10,000.

The budget committee ultimately voted 5-3 against funding Western Maine Transportation.

Two committee members expressed concern that the agency would not disclose salary information.

“I can tell you no one on our staff makes six figures,” said Craig Zurhorst, community relations director for Western Maine Transportation, in response to a question from committee member Travis Pond asking how much money the head of the nonprofit makes.

He said he would not disclose individual salary figures for privacy reasons, but the group’s overall administrative costs are 7% of their total budget.

“If the county funds someone, I think the county taxpayers deserve to know how that money is being spent,” Pond said.

Budget committee Chair Josh Bell also echoed those concerns, saying to Zurhorst, “I think some committee members are struggling with you not providing full financial statements.”

Bell and committee members, Judy Diaz, Tiffany Estabrook, Pond and Keith Swett voted not to fund the agency. Tiffany Maiuri, Bob Luce and Ray Gaudette were against withholding funding. Morgan Dunham was absent.

County budget discussions for the past few years have included debate over funding for program grants, with some county officials saying in the past that they would like to eliminate funding for certain nonprofits completely.

The current budget for program grants is $61,200. For the coming year, commissioners are recommending $44,700 and the budget committee $43,700. Both numbers are down more than $100,000 from the amount of money the county was giving to program grants three years ago, when they were funded at $171,200.

At Monday’s meeting Zurhorst implored the committee to give the group $10,000, saying a cut of $3,000 last year translated to an actual loss of about $9,000 when the group could not use the county funds to apply for federal grant money.

Bill Crandall and Judy Frost, employees at Western Maine Community Action, also spoke on behalf of that group, which is requesting $30,000 but which commissioners want to fund at $20,000.

The committee approved $20,000 in funding with the stipulation the money be spent on the group’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.

Total budget numbers being proposed by county commissioners and the budget committee for 2019-20 were not available Monday night. The current budget is $6.56 million.

Members of the budget committee also approved several changes to what commissioners are proposing for individual departments, including to add $5,000 for county commissioners to account for additional legal fees.

Committee members said the money was requested by County Clerk Julie Magoon who they said asked for the increase because union negotiations have already pushed the county over the $20,000 budgeted last year.

The committee also reduced the budget for the county treasurer’s office by $300, with the deduction coming from meals and lodging, and reduced the budget for technical services by $40,000.

The $40,000 reduction for IT services comes from capital overlay. Pond, who made the motion for the reductions, said projects for capital overlay are a “wish list.” He said because the exact cost of future projects, including the installation of a new internet server, aren’t known, there isn’t a need to budget an extensive amount of money.

At Pond’s suggestion, the committee also removed $10,000 from commissioners’ recommendation the county fund a new generator for the county courthouse.

Pond said he didn’t think the generator was necessary for the number of times the county experiences power outages at the courthouse.

“I agree with Travis on this,” Bell said. “It’s something that’s not needed.”

The committee increased the budget for the county jail by $9,435, to include additional funding for corrections officers and parking lots and a reduction for kitchen supplies.

For the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the budget committee is recommending a budget of $953,356 while commissioners are recommending $969,596.

The difference includes an additional $2,180 in the budget committee’s proposal at the recommendation of the county clerk and the elimination of $18,240 in funding for the addition of a fourth dispatch station.

Both the county commissioners’ and the budget committee’s proposals will now head to a public hearing June 5 before the committee takes its final vote on the budget June 12.


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