FARMINGTON — The Franklin Budget Advisory Committee approved a nearly $7.1 million county budget on Wednesday for 2021-22, which reflects an increase of $333,385 over the current budget. It does not factor in anticipated revenues.

The budget panel initially added $58,001 to the program grants on Wednesday for money raised in two budget years but not given to Western Maine Community Action, Western Maine Transportation Services and SeniorsPlus. Commissioners did not give $18,000 to community action agency in 2018-19 budget and $30,000 in 2019-20 budget. They also did not give $10,000 raised in 2019-20 to Western Maine Transportation Services and $1 raised as a place holder for SeniorsPlus the same year to allow the agency to return the following year to request funding.

That would have brought the already $23,700 program grant line that funded Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation and Franklin County Firemen’s Association up to $81,701. But for an unknown reason, the committee added an additional $5,000 to make it $86,701. Of that amount, the committee is requesting commissioners to take $58,001 from the undesignated fund to pay the agencies.

Commissioners sent letters to nonprofits in 2016 and 2017 informing representatives they would be phasing out the majority of the grants.

Farmington resident Fen Fowler asked the budget panel during a public hearing on June 2 to add an unpaid bills line and put $58,001 in that account to be paid to the three nonprofits. The money was raised through taxation to county towns. Commissioners took additional money out of undesignated funds for two years in a row to offset the tax assessment to repay taxpayers for the money raised but not given to the agencies.

Budget Committee members debated whether they should add money in because commissioners did not give the agencies what the panel previously added to the budget in past years and tax taxpayers again, and commissioners did not give the money to the agencies. The vote was 5-4. Voting in favor of adding the money in was Bob Luce of Carrabassett Valley, Matt Smith of Farmington, Gary McGrane of Jay, Morgan Dunham of Phillips and Tiffany Maiuri of Wilton. Mauiri said that she and her fellow selectpersons in Wilton believe the agencies should be funded at the county level. However, she did not want to see taxpayers retaxed on the money and commissioners not give it to the agencies. Opposed to the vote was Travis Pond of New Sharon, Tom Goding of Jay, Ray Gaudette of Phillips and Tiffany Estabrook of Chesterville.

Of the overall budget, $2.3 million is for the jail, which is an increase of $52,919 over the current budget, and $4.77 million, a $280,466 increase, is for county government including the grants.

The budget will now go back to commissioners. Any changes they would like to make will take a unanimous vote of the three commissioners. If a change is made, it then goes back to the budget committee and it would take six of the nine members to override commissioners.

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