Last Friday evening, the public hearing and final presentation of the 2013 budget for the County of Waldo was held. Approximately 15 to 20 citizens turned out for the hearing and in general, the conversation was, “Please keep the increases as minimal as you can due to the tight economic conditions that we are presently in.”

This year was a difficult budget for the County to present because we are in the process of undergoing an upgrade of information technology equipment. The County has adopted a procedure as follows:

During the 2012 budget year, the County upgraded all the radios in the Communications Center with funds that were left over from the new Public Safety Building project. This was the first of a three-year plan to accomplish necessary IT upgrades. This coming year we have another one-third to perform in upgrades — servers, some computers, software, printers, etc. We funded the project in this manner: the County Commissioners withdrew $110,000 in undesignated funds and the Budget Committee allocated $110,000 to be raised in the 2013 budget.

In 2014, the same process will need to be followed to complete the remaining one-third of IT upgrades. In the past, the County has leased the CAD (Computer Assisted Dispatch) law enforcement equipment to accomplish those upgrades and the leases ran from $75,000 to $100,000 over a five-year period. The only lease that the County presently has left is the final year of the five-year lease in the amount of $24,700, which will be paid off in 2013. By financing the upgrades in this manner, the County will save $47,000 in interest over five years and will have three years of owning the equipment outright with no changes required. (Equipment is slated for upgrades every five to six years, in keeping with recommended industry standards).

Therefore, the County Budget increased 4.71-percent this year, but the fact that we have to be mindful of is that $220,000 of the cost was IT upgrades, largely due to mandated state security requirements that had to be met. If it wasn’t for this necessity, our budget quite likely would have only been about 3.6-percent more than the 2012 budget.

As of 2013, the County has no mortgages that require payment, no technology leases other than the final payment of $24,700 in 2013, and your County is essentially debt free. When we see other entities falling off the “fiscal cliff” all around us, this is a major accomplishment for a county that has to survive on very tough economies because it is small and lacks significant industry.

With no major projects in sight, the County should have relatively low budget increases in the future. Two significant items that might help the County budget in the future are 1) the sale of some County land — 100 acres — and 2) a Brownfields EPA Grant has been applied for, with the assistance of the City of Belfast, for remediation of the Old Jail and Jail Keeper’s House. With the sale of the 100 acres and possible sale of these buildings, it could potentially add another $350,000 to $500,000 to the County coffers. In any event, they are historical buildings worthy of saving and the County is doing the responsible thing not to let them deteriorate any further, as they are located in an historical district.

It is pleasing to the staff and County Commissioners that we were able to keep the County Budget $59,245.22 under the L.D. 1 Cap for 2013, especially considering that we had to add $220,000 to the budget to address the IT upgrades.

The Commissioners look forward to aggressively pursuing cost containment and we always have the best interests of Waldo County taxpayers in mind.

The Commissioners would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

William D. Shorey, Amy R. Fowler and Betty I. Johnson are Waldo County Commissioners, each representing one of three districts that make up the county.