BELFAST — The Waldo County Budget Committee voted to accept 2022’s county budget at a Nov. 27 public hearing.  The committee approved a budget of $9,873,618 this year, a 6.5% increase from ast year’s $9,271,218. These figures include revenues for the county but not for the jail.

This year’s total county budget of $10,348,623, including all revenues, is up 6.3% from last year’s figure of $9,735,223.

Committee members voted to raise the county’s LD 1 spending cap by $116,478 after exceeding the spending limit in two of the last three years. Three committee members were opposed to the motion.

County Commissioner Amy Fowler said it would be better to increase the cap, rather than voting to exceed it. Committee member Elaine Higgins of Freedom supported the increase because she thinks the cost of living and other expenses are not going down, she said, and she was concerned that the county would continue to spend more than the limit.

The county exceeded the cap by $284,532.27 in 2019 and by $236,823 in 2020, but was below the cap by $291,416 for 2021, according to Finance Director Karen Trussell.

In  other business, Restorative Justice Treasurer Keith Nealley made a last-minute request for $25,000 to help pay for someone to operate a new program that will serve this county, as well as a few others. Many of the committee members said they would have supported the request if it had come to them earlier, when they were still formulating the budget. No action was taken on the request.

Restorative Justice works with inmates at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, Sheriff Jeff Trafton said. The new program is separate from the services the organization already provides for the Reentry Center.

The program will address areas of concern identified through organizations like the Sheriff’s Office, such as addiction and juvenile offenders, Nealley said. Committee member Penny Sampson of Unity was concerned that it might duplicate the efforts of other organizations in the area looking into the same issues.

The program is primarily being funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, but the DOJ requires Restorative Justice to match some of those funds. The nonprofit has also requested $25,000 from Knox County and $15,000 from Lincoln County, but is not requesting any funds for the program from Sagadahoc County, where it also operates.