AUBURN — After suffering a severe 32% cut to its requested $51,799 budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year by the Androscoggin County commissioners, the Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties Extension Association had $10,000 restored by the Androscoggin County Budget Committee during Wednesday’s meeting.

The motion, made by Kiernan Majerus-Collins of Lewiston passed by a 9-1 vote, with only Leroy Walker of Auburn voting no. Three members were absent and one seat is vacant on the 14-member board.

The Extension Association, located in Lisbon, provides educational programming and information to farmers, communities, gardeners, nutrition programs and groups such as 4-H.

The money it receives from Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties, based on population, pays for support staff and maintenance of the Lisbon office. Those costs are mostly fixed, association president Scott Roberts said. The only way to operate with a 32% lower budget would be to close the office one-to-two days a week, he said.

Funding for salaries and benefits for staff members and for all the programs comes from the University of Maine.

The request for $71,799 was the same amount the commissioners awarded the group last year.

The Budget Committee, whose members consist of municipal officials and citizens from seven districts in the county, believed restoring $10,000 that was cut was a fair compromise. It amounts to a 13% cut.

The decision, however, is not final since the County Charter requires an 11-vote super majority by the Budget Committee to modify a budget line. Commissioners will have final say on the budget.

The Budget Committee made few changes to the other accounts it reviewed Wednesday. The three other outside groups that receive funding by the county — Western Maine Transportation, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments and Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District — were unanimously adopted, as were the Registry of Deeds and the Registry of Probate.

Vice Chairman Allen  Ward of Lisbon convinced board members to cut $40,000 from the benefits account. Looking at spending from the past few years, Ward said that amount could easily be cut from the amount budgeted for Maine State Retirement funds.

The board also restored $2,000 cut from the professional services line in the commissioners’ account. Committee members thought the money would be needed for legal advice when the county is expected to seek bonds for major capital improvements to the aging courthouse in Auburn.

The final budget hearing is scheduled for Wednesday when the committee is expected to review the Emergency Management Agency and the sheriff’s, jail and communication budgets, as well as look at revenues, reserves and the five-year capital plan.

The Budget Committee is scheduled to make its final recommendation Oct. 21, immediately following a public hearing.


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