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Franklin County panel proposes changing state law governing budget process


FARMINGTON — A Franklin County committee is proposing changes to the state statute that governs the county’s budget process.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the changes and what to do with them at 10 a.m. Monday in the courtroom upstairs at the county courthouse.

One of the changes proposed would give the  county Budget Advisory Committee the authority to set the salaries of the three commissioners. Any increase or decrease would be effective Jan. 1 after the completion of the four-year term for commissioner district, Joshua Bell, chairman of the budget committee and a Farmington selectmen, said Wednesday.

The panel does not have the authority to set any other county officer’s pay, he said. Bell is also a member of the committee that reviewed the statute and made recommendations for proposed changes. Also serving on the review committee are Budget Advisory Committee member Bob Luce, a Carrabassett Valley selectman, District 2 Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington, county Clerk Julie Magoon and state Rep. Thomas Skolfield of Weld.

The recommended changes clarify some of the gray areas in the law and give guidance to the Budget Advisory Committee on what it can and cannot do, Bell said.

Currently, the commissioners salaries appear in their proposed budget.

The budget panel can amend the salaries, which are $12,000 a year, but the final budget needs to go back to commissioners. In order to change the final budget, a unanimous vote of commissioners is required. If it is unanimous, the proposed changes go back to the Budget Advisory Committee. It would take six out of the nine members to overturn the commissioners’ change.

This past budget season, the Budget Advisory Committee recommended $10,000 for commissioners salaries. Commissioners voted unanimously in July to restore their pay to $12,000. The proposal went back to the Budget Advisory Committee, which failed to override the restored salaries in a 5-4 vote.

Another proposed change is that only one member of a municipality’s select board would be able to serve on the Budget Advisory Committee at one time, unless there are only one or two municipalities in a district.

If a committee member ceases to be a municipal officer during their term, he or she will resign and their municipality may appoint another officer until the next district caucus.

This prevents one municipality from dominating the committee, Webster said at the last commissioners’ meeting on Nov. 3.

Currently, if a member of a municipality resigns, there would be another district caucus to elect a member.

Another change is the elimination of a provision that requires a member of the county legislative delegation be on the Budget Advisory Committee. A legislator has not been on the committee for many years.

Another recommended change is the addition of Advisory Committee Organization. It provides that the Budget Advisory Committee shall select a chairperson and vice chairperson and adopt its own rules or procedures and bylaws.

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