Three years of small (and sometimes no) increases in the Waldo County government budget may come back to haunt residents in the coming year, according to the county commissioners, who have settled on a draft 2012 budget up roughly 8 percent from last year.

Final approval of the budget comes from the county budget committee, comprised of municipal officials from the county’s three districts. The committee is scheduled to meet Oct. 29 to review, and potentially approve, the 2012 budget.

The county budget — $7.5 million last year — includes a fixed $2.8 million payment for the county’s share of the unified statewide corrections system, the Sheriff’s Department, Emergency Management Agency, Regional Communications Center, Registry of Deeds, District Attorney’s Office, Probate Court and the commissioners’ office.

In recent years, the commissioners have presented small increases to the budget that have been trimmed further by the county budget committee. In 2009, the budget went up just under 3 percent from the previous year. In 2010, the increase was a hair over 1 percent.

Last year, the committee resolved to have a zero-increase budget, which, according to Commissioner William Shorey, meant making a last minute cut of $67,000 from the county’s self-insurance pool.

While the cost of insuring workers is likely to vary in any given year, claims in 2011 exceeded premiums paid by employees and contributions by the county, and did so by $66,200. Shorey pointed to this as evidence that the budget committee swapped the goal of a zero-increase budget for something that was realistic to the county’s needs.

“This county has been on a real diet on money, and we’ve just got some things we need to do,” he said.

The zero-increase budget also meant that no money was added to county reserves last year. This year, the commissioners are asking for $175,000 in reserves, over half of which, Shorey said, would go to pay for state mandated equipment upgrades at the Communications Center, which fields and dispatches for 911 and other emergency calls in Waldo County.

Of the total increase over 2011, Shorey said roughly half is outside of the county’s control, including the price of gas and additional costs based on labor contracts settled during the year.

These two factors make up the bulk of a $100,000 proposed increase to the Sheriff’s budget, and fuel prices accounted for a $25,000 bump in facilities costs, Shorey said.

Additional increases show up in the commissioners office — where Shorey said a number of county liabilities fall, including technology, which previously had its own line in the budget — and the Registry of Deeds, where a part-time worker was hired.

The Waldo County budget committee will hold an all-day meeting, Saturday, Oct. 29 to review the budget.

Asked what would happen if the committee wanted to hold the line for another year, Shorey said, “They could.”

“Say what doors you want to nail shut,” he said. “That’s basically what it amounts to.”