Franklin County Commission Chairman Terry Brann of Wilton, left, and Commissioners Charles Webster of Farmington and Clyde Barker of Strong meet. Sun Journal file photo

FARMINGTON — A retired director of Western Maine Community Action asked Franklin County commissioners Tuesday why the county has not paid the agency $18,000 from last year and any of the $30,000 approved in the budget this year for the social service agency.

The Budget Advisory Committee approved $25,000 for 2018-19 and $30,000 in the 2019-20 budget for the East Wilton-based agency, and $10,000 in this year’s budget for Western Maine Transportation Services based in Auburn. The transportation service agency did receive the $7,500 the budget committee approved last year, county Finance Manager Vickie Braley wrote in an email. So far, neither agency has received funding this year.

Fenwick Fowler, who retired from the agency in 2015, told commissioners he has been following the budget process for years. He said he’s concerned that the majority of the money approved by the budget committee last year has not been paid for last year and services were provided, and no money has been given out this year.

It is his understanding that municipalities were taxed on the money approved by the committee.

Commissioners sent out letters three years ago telling organizations that the county would be phasing out program grants after three years, Commission Chairman Terry Brann of Wilton said. It is not fair to taxpayers that the agency receives funds from federal and state sources and still wants funds from the county taxpayers, he said.

The commissioners have the last say, Brann said.

In early summer, Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington said the county is facing a number of issues, including an unfunded liability and a $100,000 shortage in the jail budget. He said commissioners used additional undesignated county funds to offset this year’s tax assessment.

County Clerk Julie Magoon said Tuesday that $238,000 was used this year.

In 2018-19, $185,000 was used, Braley said in an email.

Fowler pointed out that commissioners did not have a unanimous vote to change the budget committee’s budget amount to fund the nonprofit social service agencies.

A unanimous vote of commissioners is required to overturn the committee’s approved budget.

Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong said he didn’t go along with the other two commissioners. He was a selectman for 30 years and when the funding of those agencies went to the county, he thought it was fairer.

“It was more fair; some towns raised money, and some don’t,” he said.

Brann said when he was a Wilton selectmen he voted to have the funding for the agencies set at the county level, but now that he is a commissioner, he feels differently. By funding the agencies at the county level, he said, it forces people to pay for the agencies when they may not want to do so.

At a public hearing on the budget in June, when over 100 people attended, there was a good dialogue with the budget committee and that changed some of their votes, Fowler said.

There are nearly 30,000 residents in the county.

“The county commissioners have the authority to spend the money in the budget as they deem necessary. It is not the budget committee’s authority to disperse the funds,” committee Chairman Joshua Bell wrote in an email this summer when asked about the county not giving the agencies the money approved by the budget panel.

Fowler said commissioners were changing democracy.

A Western Maine Community Action representative told commissioners earlier this year that the funding from the county would go toward increases in salaries, Brann said.

Salaries are higher than many county residents make, he said.

“They ought to just pull back and reassess what they are doing,” Brann said. He called a halt to the discussion.


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