Waldo County officials approved a $7,994,191 budget for 2014 with only a few changes prior to a final vote Friday evening.

Waldo County Commissioners and members of the Waldo County Budget Committee held a public hearing before approving the nearly $8 million budget in the Belfast District Court Friday, Dec. 6.

During the public hearing, the only member of the public in attendance to speak was Kathy Littlefield, who asked whether there would be any additional increases or decreases to the budget, and if any of the county’s surplus would be used to offset taxes.

Responding to Littlefield’s question regarding the use of surplus, Commissioner William Shorey said the county chose not to apply any surplus funds to the 2014 budget due to the fact there is a possibility the county will need to address the issue of an aging boiler in the superior court, which could cost as much as $300,000 to replace.

Shorey explained that if the need arises to replace the boiler, the county could pay for a new one without needing to borrow the money and still maintain a healthy surplus reserve.

While the overall county budget, which includes a $2.8 million dollar contribution to the Waldo County Jail and Reentry Center, is down more than 2 percent compared to the 2013 budget, Littlefield commented that residents are still feeling the pinch from increasing taxes.

Shorey noted that the proposed 2014 county budget was well under the tax-levy limits imposed by LD 1, which caps how much a municipality can raise through taxes.

The goal of LD 1, which was approved by the legislature in 2005, was to decrease the state and local tax-burden ranking to the middle one-third of states by 2015, according to the Office of Policy and Management website.

Following Littlefield’s comments, Budget Committee member Bill Sneed asked if there were any additional comments from members of the public or from any county employees.

When no one else chose to speak, committee members then opened the floor to a brief presentation from a representative from Time and Tide Resource Conservation and Development Area –– a nonprofit group that looks to conserve, improve and develop natural resources while also recognizing economic growth opportunities, according to the organization’s website.

The group asked for funding in the amount of $3,750 to help expand the program.

Funding for the organization is included in the county’s advertising and promotion account.

After the brief presentation, committee members discussed funding levels for several organizations in addition to Time and Tide, which included the Eastern Maine Development Corporation, the Midcoast Economic Development District and Belfast Creative Coalition.

Ultimately, committee members voted to give $1,000 to Time and Tide and the Belfast Creative Coalition, and passed motions to reduce funding for the Eastern Maine Development Corporation and the Midcoast Economic Development District to $0. With the adjustments, the Advertising and Promotions budget totaled $10,500.

Committee members then approved funding for the following departments without any changes:

Emergency Management Agency –– $107,395

District Attorney –– $237,177

County Commissioners –– $503,542

Treasurer –– $71,290

Facilities Management –– $270,723

Registry of Deeds –– $224,356

Probate Court –– $208,647

When discussion began regarding a proposed $1,330,236 department budget for the sheriff’s office, Shorey suggested adding back funding in the amount of $6,400 that was previously removed.

He said he felt the money should be added back to the sheriff’s budget due to rising oil prices, which in turn would increase gas prices.

The additional funding would be added to the sheriff’s office vehicle fuel account.

Budget Committee members approved the additional funding request with two members opposed. The adjustment to the vehicle fuel account resulted in the sheriff’s budget being increased to $1,336,636.

When committee members opened discussion for funding in the amount of $867,697 for the Waldo County Regional Communication Center, Jim Bennett, a member of the budget committee, motioned to reduce the total funding by $20,000.

However, Bennett’s motion failed due to a lack of a second from another committee member and the originally proposed amount was approved.

The budget committee then approved the remaining department budgets without any changes, which included:

Audit –– $9,500

Debt Service –– $0

Tax Anticipation Note Interest –– $12,000

University of Maine Extension –– $40,825

Employee Benefits –– $1,236,550

Waldo County Soil and Water –– $25,000

With the adjustments in funding to certain departments, the 2014 county portion of the budget totaled $5,161,838 –– a decrease of 3.39 percent compared to the 2013 budget.

The overall budget as approved by the budget committee, which includes the $2,832,353 contribution to the jail and reentry center, totals $7,994,191–– a decrease of 2.21 percent compared to the 2013 budget.

Shorey noted the total budget was about $190,000 under the LD 1 cap.

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