JAY — A selectperson asked Monday how much the town’s share of Franklin County taxes goes toward nonprofit program grants, and if the town can legally withhold that amount from the county.

Selectperson Gary McGrane, a former county commissioner, raised the questions during a Select Board meeting in regards to county commissioners not releasing $10,000 the county Budget Advisory Committee approved for Western Maine Transportation Services, $30,000 for Western Maine Community Action and $1 for SeniorsPlus.

Commissioners sent their recommended budget for 2019-20 to the Budget Advisory Committee last year with no money proposed for Western Maine Transportation Services or SeniorsPlus. The budget committee put in the $10,000 for the transportation service and $1 for SeniorsPlus as a placeholder. It also added $10,000 to the commissioners’ recommendation of $20,000 for Western Maine Community Action.

There was a series of seven votes by the Budget Advisory Committee on May 20, 2019, that ended up with no funding recommended for Western Maine Transportation Services. That changed June 12 when the committee voted 5-3 for $10,000 for the transportation service.

None of the money for the three agencies in the 2019-20 budget has been released.

Commissioners also did not release about $18,000 in the 2018-19 county budget, approved by the budget panel for Western Maine Community Action.

Representatives of the transportation service recently announced it would curtail or eliminate on-demand bus services on March 31 to Franklin County because they did not get the $10,000, which would have been used to get an additional $13,500 in federal money.

However, the agency announced last week that it received an emergency $10,000 grant from the Harold Dudley Charitable Fund of the Maine Community Foundation to continue services.

During the selectpersons meeting Monday, McGrane said he knew people who use the service in Jay, including one he often gives a ride to meet the bus.

There are a number of towns not supporting the release of funds and towns that support it, Selectperson Tim DeMillo said.

New Sharon is one that doesn’t support releasing the funds, while Wilton and Farmington support it, according to letters received by commissioners.

DeMillo said that when he was on the budget panel there were several of the nine members — all selectmen — opposed to funding nonprofit program grants. Most often, commissioners recommended funding. The budget committee can recommend funding but it is up to the commissioners if it is spent, he said.

Commissioners sent letters to the nonprofit agencies three years ago letting representatives know that funding would be phased out, Commissioner Terry Brann said at Monday’s meeting. The three years are up, he said.

When he was on the county budget committee he said he told the agencies they need to find a better way to fund them. He understands that the county needs public transportation but it needs to be more efficiently run, he said.

Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong supports funding the agencies.

Commissioners used more money from the undesignated fund to offset taxes for this year’s budget to cover the money raised for the nonprofits.

Selectperson Tom Goding, who also previously served on the budget committee, asked if this was the first time commissioners went against the committee’s recommendation.

Answers to the board’s questions are expected to be discussed on March 23.

Commissioners have gone against the budget panel’s recommendations and the budget committee has gone against commissioners’ recommendations several times throughout the years.

In December 2016, commissioners including McGrane, voted to buy a dispatch console for $166,516 with half the money coming from the county’s undesignated fund and the other half coming from tax-increment financing funds designated to the unorganized territory. The budget committee had removed about $17,550 from the communications budget that was targeted for the dispatch console.

The committee also included a 3% raise for nonunion county workers in this year’s budget. It was 1% more than the commissioners recommended. Commissioners did not give 3% cost-of-living raises to nonunion workers.

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