ELLSWORTH — The Hancock County budget for FY 2019, which starts Jan. 1, contains a spending increase of 2.86 percent, largely due to wage increases.
“There was a 3 percent increase in wages for non-union,” employees,” said Commissioner Bill Clark. “I don’t remember what was built into the union scale.”
Clark and Chairman Antonio Blasi voted to approve the budget at a Nov. 20 special meeting. Commissioner Percy “Joe” Brown was absent.
Hancock County has 94 full-time employees, with 51 of them holding positions within unionized departments, according to Deputy County Administrator Rebekah Knowlton.
Union employees include those in the sheriff’s patrol division, Hancock County Jail and Hancock County Regional Dispatch Center.
“We also have 20 part-time employees,” Knowlton said.
The 2.86 percent increase means taxpayers will need to pay an additional $167,094 over this year’s county taxes, according to the budget.
This will result in a $6,002,073 tax bill to be divided among Hancock County’s 37 municipalities. Taxes are assessed based on Maine Revenue Services’ property valuation of each municipality.
The 2018 amount that was raised through taxation was $5,834,979.
Where does it go?
County taxes fund the Sheriff’s Office’s law enforcement budget as well as the Hancock County Jail and the Hancock County Regional Communications Center. All of those departments operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The county also is required by statute to fund the Registry of Deeds and Registry of Probate as well as a maintenance budget for the Hancock County 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.
One county government exception 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.
The county does take in revenues, which for 2019 are proposed to be $2.3 million. 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.
A budget advisory committee of municipal officials, largely town managers and selectmen, reviews the proposed budgets each year during the fall and makes recommendations to the commissioners.
This year, the committee had recommended the commissioners spend more but they did not.
“We actually pared back on the budget advisory recommendations,” Clark said.