The Waldo County Budget Committee made only minor changes to the commissioner’s draft 2012 budget Saturday, Oct. 29, cutting roughly $22,000 from the proposed $8 million bottom line.

The entirety of the cuts were made to the budget of the Waldo County Regional Communications Center, where — according to Budget Committee Chairman Bill Sneed — members believed the department’s $112,000 line for part-time and overtime pay was too high.

The committee cannot change specific lines within a department’s budget — a restriction that Sneed said was appropriate — but can alter the bottom line. The Communication Center’s was nipped by $23,244.

The committee also added $1,000 to the county’s reserves to fund the county’s Confined Spaces Rescue Team, based on a request from Searsport Fire Chief Jim Dittmeier.

If passed without further cuts, the 2012 budget be up 8 percent from last year. That figure includes the fixed $2.8 million payment the county makes toward the unified statewide corrections system, a portion of which pays for the re-entry center and 72-hour hold facility housed in the former Waldo County Jail.

Sneed noted that the portion of the budget within the control of county officials actually went up closer to 13 percent.

Given the increase, the absence of big cuts from the budget committee was notable — In past years, the group, composed of town officials, has doggedly chased low-percentage tax increases, often to the consternation of the commissioners.

VillageSoup left voicemail messages for County Commission Chairman William Shorey seeking comment on the budget session, but had not heard back prior to publication of this story.

Sneed noted that in past years the budget committee held a series of a half-dozen meetings, treating only a handful of departments at a time, often in great detail. Against the backdrop of the Fifth District Courtroom, where the session are held, the meetings often resembled trials. Department heads were grilled at length. Expenses were picked over with a fine-tooth comb.

“In some of my old budget books, it looks like I threw a bottle of ink at it,” Sneed said. The binders of some of his fellow, longtime committee members were similarly marked up with calculations and revisions, he recalled.

The process was rigorous, he said, but it was also exhausting and the process has since been condensed into a single day-long meeting, in part Sneed said, to accommodate a budget committee member from Islesboro.

“There is a certain logic to it, it’s just that the first meeting didn’t have a lot of fireworks, for lack of a better word,” he said.

The downside was that committee members couldn’t give as much attention to the individual budget lines.

“We only had the [budget] books about six or seven days so we just wanted to go through it and listen to the department heads strut their stuff and see what’s here,” he said, listing off several longtime committee members who he expected would be going through the budget on their own, in detail, over the next month.

“I think there will be some more serious questions come the final meeting,” he said.

Sneed encouraged members of the public, typically scarce at county meetings, to come at the end of the month and weigh in on the budget.

“The more voices that are heard the better,” he said. “The bottom line is [budget committee members] only represent nine of the 26 towns. It’s just good to hear from more people. It’s always good to hear from more people.”

The final budget committee meeting and public hearing will be held Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. in the Fifth District Courtroom, Belfast.