The draft budget that will go before the county budget committee Oct. 23 is up just over 1 percent from last year.

Not included in the budget is the outcome of contract negotiations with two county bargaining units that represent roughly half of all county employees — Sheriff’s Office deputies and county support staff.

Both contracts expire Jan. 1, 2011, and, according to budget committee Chairman Bill Sneed, must be resolved before the budget can be approved.

Looking ahead to the budget meeting, Sneed expressed some concern about the increases in salaries of county employees. Sneed used the term “pay scale,” then dryly suggested “pay elevator” or “pay escalator.” Sneed cited large pay jumps that some employees have received in past budgets and said he believed the increases had mostly been for higher-level employees of the county. County employees have also historically received annual cost of living allowance raises.

“Ask people on Social Security what COLA they got last year,” he said. “It’s zero. And it’s going to be zero next year.”

Sneed did reserve some praise for the commissioners, who have brought only modest increases to the committee over the past two years.

“To give the current crop of commissioners their due — and God knows they deserve it — they have done the heavy lifting,” he said. “The budget committee no longer has to go in on the day before Christmas and act like Scrooge. The commissioners have gone into the departments and said, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ so the budget committee doesn’t have to do that.”

Though, if past hearings are any indication, Sneed and the rest of the budget committee aren’t shy about saying no.

If the budget is approved as presented, Commission Chairman Donald Berry estimated the assessment to towns would go down by around $280,000 this year.

The cost of employee health insurance went up substantially this year, but not as a symptom of rising health-care costs. The county began self-insuring in 2007 and according to Berry, the employee premiums and the county contribution went up this year to increase the pool of money in the insurance account.

County employees contributed 10 percent of the premium last year and were bumped up to 12 percent this year.

The proposed Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management Agency building won’t have any effect on the budget, according to Berry, because they will be paid for out of existing county reserves and federal grant money.

After two years of snubbing a request for funding from Eastern Maine Development Corporation, the commissioners approved the organization’s $5,000 request this year, because, Berry said, the organization has a new administration and has shown some renewed energy.

A $63,000 debt service line in the budget disappeared this year, as the county paid off the construction of the Regional Communications Center. The county also cut contributions to reserves and grant writing — $87,500 and $5,000, respectively, last year.

As part of the recent statewide consolidation of county and state corrections facilities, the county’s contribution to the unified system is capped at $2.8 million. Unlike some counties with larger jails that have had trouble getting the balance of their funding from the state, Waldo County’s re-entry center costs significantly less to run than the cap amount and Berry said the county had had no troubles as a result of the consolidation.

In a break from the multiple Friday night sessions of past years, the Waldo County Budget Committee is scheduled to take on the budget in its entirety at 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 23, at the Fifth District Courthouse in Belfast.