AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission approved the proposed $16.1 million budget for 2022 on Wednesday over the objection of Commissioner Isaiah Lary of Wales, who wanted a more detailed study of the document.

Following budget hearings on different sections of the budget for the past three weeks and a public hearing on the budget earlier in the meeting, where no one spoke in favor or against the budget, Commissioner John Michael of Auburn moved to accept the budget in its entirety, which would send the proposal to the Budget Committee for its consideration.

Lary, meanwhile, wanted to review each account, perhaps line-by-line, in order to make adjustments and cuts. He accused fellow commissioners of shirking their responsibilities to the taxpayers by sending the budget proposal to the Budget Committee without greater scrutiny, calling is “a shell game that has been played for the past four years that I have been a commissioner.”

The other commissioners were comfortable with the budget process to date and supported Michael’s motion by a 5-1 vote.

After the Budget Committee makes its recommendations, commissioners will have final say on the budget and will still have an opportunity to make changes before it is ratified.

Before Michael’s motion, commissioners briefly considered two changes. They unanimously approved a proposal by Lary to increase the death benefit account in the Sheriff’s Office by $7,058, bringing it to $25,000. The benefit pays the widow of Deputy David Rancourt, who died in the line of duty in 2006.

The amount of the death benefit was determined by calculating 50% of the deputy’s salary at the time of death, according to state statute. Since first being paid in 2007, the amount has remained at $17,942. Lary suggested cost-of-living increases should have been paid over the years.

Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner agreed and calculated the retro payments for cost-of-living increases would roughly equal the amount Lary had proposed.

Commissioners agreed to amend the budget to provide a one-time payment of $25,000 death benefit for next year and then set the base amount at $20,000 for future years.

Lary then tried to eliminate the $13,000 that commissioners had approved last week to allow the Sheriff’s Office to provide 24-hour supervision for patrol staff. The money would pay for the promotions of four officers to the rank of corporal to assist the shift supervisor, Sheriff Eric Samson had said. No additional staff will be hired, he added.

Commissioners, however refused to second Lary’s proposal, effectively killing the motion.

While expenditures are increasing by a little more than 2%, a sharp decrease in expected revenues will increase the amount raised by taxation by nearly 12.3%, County Administrator Larry Post said. Last year, $480,000 was spent from reserves and surplus funds to reduce the budget. Those funds are no longer available, Lary said, who has proposed using $100,000 from surplus and nothing from reserves for next year’s budget.

“We used more reserves than we should have last year,” Post said.

In other business…

In other business, Samson asked if the commission was in favor of setting up a Board of Governance for the proposed combined dispatch service between the county and Lewiston-Auburn 911 Communications Center. There was some confusion about whether this was an advisory board or one with governing power. As first proposed, the county would oversee the combined dispatch service.

The majority of commissioners did not favor the idea of adding another level of government.

Lary’s attempt to remove Christner as chairwoman for violating the constitution, state law, the charter and bylaws failed when no other commissioner would second his motion.


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