AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission took its first step to address a massive deficit in the 2023 county jail budget by moving $236,000 in medical insurance for retirees into the general benefit account established for the remainder of the county employees and retirees.

Sheriff Eric Samson said the money should have been moved out of the jail budget years ago, but has remained there.

The county is looking at a $773,000 deficit for its jail budget. Interim County Administrator Clarice Proctor has proposed using $300,000 from reserves to help fill the hole, but commissioners have not yet signed off on the plan. They are scheduled to review the jail budget at their next meeting Sept. 7.

Proctor and Jail Administrator Jeffrey Chute have told commissioners there is nothing in the budget to cut.

Proctor has suggested areas where expenditures can be moved out of the jail budget, only to become costs on the county side of the budget. The moves would not lower what is initially expected to be a 9% tax increase.

The jail budget is separate from the county budget because it receives state funding. According to the county, the state will send Androscoggin County $2.22 million for the support of prisoners. The county will have some additional revenue for alternative sentencing programs and boarding prisoners, but the total bill for the jail exceeds $8.4 million, an 11% increase.


A new bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year prevents the county from raising the tax cap for next year, Proctor told commissioners two weeks ago. In past years, the county was able to raise the cap by up to 3%, but the increase was often less than that.

During Wednesday’s second of three planned budget hearings, commissioners did make a few cuts, starting with eliminating $58,000 in capital expenditures for the building account. The two projects cut were $30,000 to upgrade lighting to LEDs and $28,000 to paint the stairwells on the Court Street side of the building.

Similar to last week, commissioners held off approving the salary lines in each department budget until it can consider all at one time. The county has proposed a 5% increase across the board, which troubled some board members.

The board voted against approving the Emergency Management Agency budget. Commissioners questioned the water account, which increased by more than 300%. Because it is in the Lewiston Central Fire Station, EMA is responsible for 12.5% of the water cost with the city of Lewiston. Commissioners wanted an explanation why the water cost increased so much.

Commissioners made minor cuts to their department budget, cutting $2,000 from legal fees and half of the $900 proposed for mileage.

With the need to hire a new information technology director, Proctor said the starting salary budgeted was too low to find a qualified individual. The sum of $63,000 was budgeted and Proctor said her initial search revealed the county would have to pay at least $75,000.

“Dispatch needs to be online all the time,” Proctor said when asked if they could get by with a part-time or contracted IT person. “We want someone where this is their first priority. What happens if we go down?”

Commissioners agreed to transfer $25,000 from the service contract line to bump the IT director’s salary to $88,000.

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