County commissioners are proposing an $8 million budget for fiscal year 2014.

The proposed 2014 county budget is $5,162,838 and the overall budget, which includes a fixed contribution to the state's corrections system of $2,832,353, totals $7,995,191.

The county approved a total budget of $8.2 million for the fiscal year 2013, which was an increase of more than 3 percent over the 2012 budget. County officials attributed much of that increase to scheduled raises for employees and increases in the cost of employee benefits.

Commission Chairman William Shorey said as commissioners were preparing to put together the 2014 budget, that they asked department heads to be as conservative as possible with their own budget projections. He said the county has also saved money — about $80,000 — on its health insurance premiums.

For the past five years, the county has operated a self-funded health insurance plan and more recently introduced a County Wellness Program. The wellness program allows employees to enroll at local fitness centers and the county provides matching funds from its own health plan.

In addition, Shorey said the 2014 budget includes the final portion of a $500,000 upgrade to the county's technology equipment. Shorey previously told The Republican Journal the county opted to purchase the equipment as opposed to leasing it in order to save money on interest payments. Once upgraded, the equipment would last five to six years.

By making the decision to purchase the equipment as opposed to leasing it, Shorey said the county saved about $47,000 in interest payments.

While commissioners looked at ways to reduce the overall budget, they also added some funding into a number of reserve accounts.

The 2014 proposed budget also added a total of $150,000 in funding to nine different reserve accounts including: employment security, equipment services, severance/assistance, courthouses, sheriff facility, vehicle emergency replacement, county planning, facilities all other and technology.

Shorey said having funds available in the reserve accounts is important because it allows the county to fund projects without having to borrow money. As an example, Shorey said the county will need to upgrade the heating system in the superior court building. That project could cost about $300,000 and having the money available in a reserve account would allow the county to complete the upgrade without having to borrow money.

“Operating debt-free is a tremendous issue today,” Shorey said. “We want to protect the taxpayers of Waldo County.”

Looking ahead, Shorey said he believes the county will be able to present a flat budget or slightly reduced budgets over the next two years.

The budget committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m. in the Maine District Courtroom, 103 Church Street.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.