Piscataquis County budget public hearing set for Nov. 30

DOVER-FOXCROFT – The Piscataquis County Commissioners have scheduled the annual public hearing for the 2016 County budget and the 2016-2017 Unorganized Territory budget for Monday, Nov. 30, starting at 7 p.m. in the Superior Court room of the Piscataquis County Courthouse.

Proposed expenditures in the 2016 County budget fiscal year, which begins Jan. 1, are $4,007,542. That total represents a decrease in spending of $82,956 (-2.03%) from the current year.

The estimated tax commitment for the 17 towns and two plantations in Piscataquis County for 2016 is $2,331,966, an increase of $1,188 (.05%). Although the county tax commitment has been held at an essentially flat rate, 10 communities will experience an increase in the county tax and nine will see a decrease due to fluctuations in state valuation figures. The overall property valuation for organized  Piscataquis towns is estimated at $1,594,700,000 in 2016, a decline of $11.9 million in valuation from the previous year.

The Unorganized Territory share of the tax assessment for the County budget is $1,117,726, 32.4% of the total, and represents an increase of $27,085 (2.48%). The state valuation of UT property for 2016 is $764,350,000, an increase of $12.5 million.

Despite the decrease in expenditures in the proposed County budget, the county tax commitment shows a small increase because County Commissioners recommend transferring only $25,000 from surplus funds to reduce the commitment. In 2015, $130,000 was transferred from surplus for that purpose.

Proposed expenditures for Unorganized Territory services, for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, are $1,471,873, a decrease of $54,769 (-3.59%). The separate Unorganized Territory budget is funded exclusively by UT property taxpayers, and the estimated tax assessment of $962,139 represents a decrease of $46,572 (-4.62%).

County Commissioners propose transferring $205,000 from surplus to reduce the tax commitment for the UT budget.

The budget includes a general wage increase of 1% for non-union, full-time County employees. Collective bargaining agreements with the union representing employees of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department expire onDec. 31, 2015, and contract negotiations are currently in progress between Piscataquis County and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, for a new contract to run from 2016-2018.

The County and UT budgets were reviewed over five meetings held between Oct. 7 and Nov. 18 by the nine-member County Budget Advisory Committee appointed by the County Commissioners. The committee was chaired by Terry Knowles of Brownville, and includes Thomas Carone, Sangerville; William Thompson, Guilford; Vera Davis, Shirley; Buzz Small, Sebec; Chris Maas and Jane Conroy, Dover-Foxcroft; Luke Muzzy, Greenville; and Scott Snell, Big Moose Twp.