Franklin County budget panel proposes higher raises for employees, more money for nonprofits

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Apr. 27—FARMINGTON — The Franklin County budget committee set a public hearing on its budget proposal for 4 p.m. May 9 at the Courthouse. The spending plan includes county government, the jail and nonprofit organizations.

The majority of the Budget Advisory Committee voted Tuesday to add a 5% cost-of-living raise for nonunion employees, excluding elected part-time officials, which is 2% more than commissioners have in their proposed spending plan.

The committee took an initial vote Tuesday on a proposed 2023-24 budget of $9.4 million. Of that, nearly $6.7 million is for county government and $2.7 million is for the jail. Neither amount factors in anticipated revenues.

The committee also added back money commissioners removed from nonprofit agency requests and added a new request of $37,500 from Western Maine Transportation Services. The overall committee's proposal for nonprofits is $$297,040 while the commissioners proposed $145,942.

The commissioners' budget without factoring in revenues is nearly $9.3 million. Of that amount, $2.7 million is for the jail and $6.5 million for county government.

Budget committee member Morgan Dunham of Kingfield led the effort to go with a 5% raise. She said she asked county Administrator Amy Bernard what the difference was between a 3% and 5% raise would be. Bernard said it would be about $35,000 increase, Dunham said.

Regardless of how the committee votes on the raise, commissioners have the sole authority to set compensation for employees. The county went through this several years ago when the budget panel included a higher raise than commissioners had provided in their budget.

The money was raised through taxation but employees did not get the higher raise.

The committee will set a date for a final vote on the budget following the hearing.

Once they determine the budget, it will be sent back to commissioners. It would take a unanimous vote of the three commissioners to send any changes back to the committee. It would take six of nine members on the committee to override the commissioners' proposal. All committee members serve on the Select Board in their towns.