ELLSWORTH — The Hancock County Commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously in support of a draft county budget for 2020 that contains a near 5 percent increase.
Total expenditures proposed are $8,471,521, according to County Administrator Scott Adkins. That’s an increase of $285,614 over the current budget.
The board is holding a public hearing on the proposed $8.5-million budget on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. at the commissioners’ meeting room at the Hancock County Courthouse.
Adkins said proposed departmental expenditures total $6,505,912. That includes funding to operate the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and the Hancock County Regional Communications Center — the people who answer when you call 911. Those are departments that operate 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Proposed expenditures to operate the Hancock County Jail total $1,965,609.
The total expenditures for county departments and the jail together equal the $8.5 million figure.
The administrator said one reason for the increase is wage increases.
“The only way you get effective, efficient services is with quality people,” Adkins said. From a local labor market perspective, “Hancock County has not been competitive for several years and now it is,” he said.
If finally approved, the budget would result in a $6,287,687 tax bill to be divided up among Hancock County’s 37 municipalities. The taxes are assessed based on Maine Revenue Service’s total property valuation of each community.
Adkins said revenues for 2020 are projected to be $2,183,834. Revenues are largely derived from sheriff’s contracts with towns for extra police patrols, fees for 911 dispatching and fees from the Registry of Deeds and probate services.
Included in the county budget are funding for the Registry of Deeds and Registry of Probate — mandated by state statute — as well as a maintenance budget for the courthouse. The budget also funds support staff at the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office.
The county budget includes funding for the Hancock County Commissioners to conduct business.
The budget covers fire protection and other services to the unorganized territories, which have no municipal government.
Not included in the budget is the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport. No county tax money is used for airport operations. The airport’s budget is funded through user fees as well as rents and fees charged to tenants at the airport as well as airline operators.
A budget advisory committee of municipal officials, largely town managers and selectmen, will review the proposed budget and meet with department heads during October. The committee will suggest budget increases or cuts to the commissioners as it sees fit.
The commissioners have until Dec. 15 to finalize the budget, per Maine statute.