AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Budget Committee completed its work Wednesday on the $15.7  million budget for 2021, sending it back to the county commission for its final approval.

Combined with expected revenues of $5.1 million, projections show that the expected county tax rate will increase by less than 0.23%, the smallest increase in several years.

Kiernan Majerus-Collins of Lewiston praised fellow committee members, saying, “It feels like we’re making a difference.”

The biggest difference-maker was taking $100,000 from reserves last month to allow the jail to purchase a body scanner. The machine would provide a safer environment at the county jail by detecting weapons, drugs and other foreign objects and could ultimately save lives. The committee unanimously supported that decision.

After looking at what was available on the market, Sheriff Eric Samson told the committee Wednesday that a model appropriate for the jail would cost $150,000. He left it to the committee to decide whether to add another $50,000 from reserves or to return the original $100,000 to the reserve account.

The body scanner includes no add-ons, has safety features built in so authorities know who the scan belongs to and can also scan packages and other items.

The committee agreed to transfer the extra $50,000, with Andrew Titus of Auburn suggesting that the wording say “spend up to $150,000” for the machine. That proposal passed 11-1 with Kevin Nichols of Turner voting against authorizing the extra amount.

By taking the money out of reserves, the purchase will have no impact on county taxes next year.

The $150,000 transfer must be approved by the county commission. At least one commissioner has already expressed his objection to the Budget Committee’s decision.

During the public hearing, a few youngsters spoke in favor of 4-H, which is supported by Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties Extension Association. Four letters were also submitted by individuals associated with 4-H who could not attend the meeting.

Located in Lisbon, the association provides educational programming and information to farmers, communities, gardeners, nutrition programs and groups such as 4-H.

The county commission has originally sliced 32% from the group’s proposed $52,000 budget, but the Budget Committee had restored $10,000 to limit the cut to 13%.

Commissioners will receive the committee’s recommendation at its next meeting Nov. 4, when it is expected to ratify the 2021 budget. Commissioners can still adjust the budget up or down.

At the commissioners meeting, held before the Budget Committee meeting, they approved a $6 million tax anticipation note from Androscoggin Bank at 1.26%.


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