County approves 2019 budget, up 5.4 percent

Treasurer's compensation cut; committee skips Superior Court savings plan
By Ethan Andrews | Dec 06, 2018

Belfast — The Waldo County Budget Committee on Nov. 30 gave final approval to the county's 2019 budget, which is up 5.4 percent from the current year, but passed on a suggestion to raise money for future renovations to Superior Court.

County government includes the Sheriff's Office, jail and Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, Regional Communications Center, Emergency Management Agency, Registry of Probate, Registry of Deeds and District Attorney's Office. Executive decisions are made by three elected county commissioners.

Roughly half of the increase in the $9 million budget comes from employee benefits, which will cost $1.45 million next year as the county makes up for borrowing from its self-insurance funding in several prior years.

The county typically sets aside $805,000 each year for employee insurance but budgeted less than that for several years to build up its reserves, County Commissioner William Shorey said. Next year, it will return to $805,000, he said.

The budget includes a dramatic reduction in the compensation for the treasurer next year, to $2,500 from just over $10,000. Commissioners said the change is part of a structural overhaul of the department, in which the deputy treasurer has increasingly done the lion's share of the work. Accordingly, the deputy treasurer position was renamed finance director with a pay increase of $2,400 next year.

Treasurer-elect Peter Sheff has taken issue with the change, which was made after he was elected. Sheff will replace longtime treasurer David Parkman in January.

With construction of the new unified courthouse, the county will lose a regular revenue stream of about $100,000 a year in rent paid by the state for space rented at District Court, which eventually will be occupied exclusively by county offices.

The Budget Committee nixed a late proposal by the commissioners to set aside $100,000 for future renovations to Superior Court, situated three blocks north of District Court, which will be left partially vacant when the new courthouse opens.

"I did make that request and say it's a disaster waiting to happen," Shorey said. "They didn't think they could afford it at this time. We were asking for a penny added to the budget. They weren't contentious at all; they just didn't feel they could. But we felt it was our duty to warn them."

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