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  • Tammy L Wells

Public hearing on $25 million York County budget is June 10

ALFRED, Maine – The York County Budget Committee has voted to conduct a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 10 on the proposed York County budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. York County residents may attend in person – the meeting will be held in the Commissioner’s meeting room, York County Government building, 149 Jordan Springs Road (Route 4) in Alfred – or by Zoom at:

Meeting ID: 892 5216 3494, Passcode: 413687.

 

The proposed $25.1 million spending plan, of which $21.5 million is to be raised by taxes to the county’s 29 municipalities, increases the budget by 7.38 percent and municipal assessments by 9.6 percent.


County Manager Greg Zinser has said the increase can be largely attributed to higher municipal valuations as determined by the state, along with increased wage, benefit, and contracted services costs. County Commission Chair Richard Dutremble has noted that inflation also plays a role.


Overall, the state has increased the value of municipalities across York County by $8 billion to $54.94 billion.


A sampling of five of the county’s 29 municipalities shows increases in their valuation and the proposed increase in county tax. If the budget is approved, Wells, whose valuation was set by the state at $5.49 billion, would be assessed $2.15 million, up by about $286,000 from the current year. Biddeford’s valuation is $4.34 billion and would be assessed $1.7 million in county tax, up an estimated $192,000 from this year. Sanford, valued at $2.46 billion, would pay nearly $967,000 in county tax, up by about $74,000 from the current year. Alfred, the county seat, is valued at $501 million, and would pay an estimated $197,000 in county tax, up by about $11,000. Parsonsfield, valued at close to $338 million, would pay an estimated $132, 000 in county tax, up by close to $15,000.


A percentage of property taxes paid in the municipalities goes to pay the municipal share of the county tax. In the same five municipalities previously referenced, for the current year,  4.86 percent of a property tax bill in Wells is county tax; Biddeford, 2.67 percent; Sanford, 2.44 percent; Alfred, 2.80 percent and Parsonsfield, 2.67 percent.


Zinser said budget proposal contains no additional positions.


Budget committee members met for more than five hours over two meetings, perusing the proposal and asking questions of department heads and the county manager.


Questions were raised by budget committee member Jonathan Martell of Sanford concerning vacant positions at York County Jail and elsewhere in county government. He moved to eliminate six corrections vacancies from the jail budget, which would have reduced the number of line staff positions from 72 to 66, but the proposal was defeated, with Martell casting the sole vote to defund.


“I know how hard it is to attract people to these positions,” said York County Budget Committee Chair Jo-Ann Putnam of Alfred. “It’s not easy to find anyone who wants to get into public service; hopefully that is changing.”


York County Sheriff William King said the county is having some success filling vacancies but acknowledged that some new hires find the job isn’t for them. He said when people are asked why they leave, “the vast majority say “I can’t take the overtime.””


The more vacant positions there are, the more overtime is required; at times that overtime can be mandatory, King noted.


Martell went on to propose cutting an archivist/ records position, which is attached to the York County Registry of Deeds but serves the entire county government. After a discussion, he voted against his motion, as did the rest of the budget board.


Martell moved to cut three of four vacant positions in rural patrol but after discussion, withdrew his motion.


His attempt to defund two, which he later amended to one, of three vacant legal secretary positions in the York County District Attorney’s Office was defeated, as was his bid to reduce cost of living increases for about 30 nonunion personnel from 4 percent to 3 percent.


Budget committee member Lisa Pratt of Kennebunk pointed out that most municipalities are considering offering a 5 percent COLA to stay competitive.


The budget committee has the final vote on the county spending plan, which is unchanged from the version approved by York County Commissioners in mid-April. Following the public hearing, the board will discuss the budget and could vote that evening.

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