COMMISSIONER AGENDAS & MINUTES
COMMISSIONERS SPECIAL MEETING
Commission Chairman, Percy L. Brown Jr., called the Public Hearing of the Hancock County Commissioners to order at 5:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 in the conference room of the county courthouse located in Ellsworth Maine with Commissioners Blasi and Joy in attendance; also in attendance were Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) members Jo Cooper, Kathleen Billings-Pezaris, Hal Snow, Fred Ehrlenbach, Nelson Grindal, Loren Snow, Ralph Chapman, James Schatz and Richard Dickson. Thom Martin of the Hancock County Planning Commission was present.
Proposed Revenues: $2,492,794
Proposed Expenditures: $8,221,707
Total 2016 Amount to be raised by taxation (without the Overlay): $5,728,914
Total increase over the FY15 amount to be raised by taxation: $391,277 or 7.33%
Commissioner Brown stated that the county is now responsible for the jail due to State Legislature issues. The commissioners will make a decision as to whether to file a suit against the state in the next few weeks. $200,000 of Community Benefit Funds has not been applied to offset the FY16 budget at this time. The final budget deadline is December 15, 2015; Commissioner Brown stated that more attention is needed on this budget.
County Administrator (CA) Conlogue introduced himself and asked if there were any questions; he explained that the roll of the CA is to represent the commissioners; he has worked closely with the commissioners during the entire budget process. The budget process is as follows: Department Heads submit their proposed budgets to the CA, the CA presents his proposed budget to the Commissioners and the Commissioners present their proposed budget to the BAC after which the budget returns to the commissioners for final approval. It was noted that in order to deviate from any recommendation made by a recorded 2/3 majority vote of the full membership of the budget advisory committee, the county commissioners must unanimously approve that change.
The LD1 CAP is set at approximately 2.4% (it was noted that this was the FY14 CAP). The UT budget is under CAP and will not be reviewed by the BAC.
Commissioner Blasi stated that, in his opinion, there is more Community Benefit money on hand and could be used against the budget.
Commissioner Joy stated that the State has given the jails back to the counties, but the State also approved an amount (budget) of approximately $130,000 that they have not funded. The increase in the cap is approximately $40,000 which creates a shortfall of approximately $90,000. The Department of Corrections (DOC) determines jail staffing; Hancock County is at minimum staffing. By next May or June there will be no money to run the jail, at this time without a supplemental budget and with the CAP that has been set in place by the Legislature, there is no way to raise those funds. A letter has been sent stating that the Hancock County Commissioners believe that the State owes Hancock County money (jail funding) under the old law; we probably will have to file a law suit to be heard louder. Every county saw a shortfall this year due to State funding constraints. Mr. Schatz questioned if there was a mechanism to exceed the CAP; at this time it is either the LD1 Cap or 3%. Mr. Dickson questioned if other counties were shorted funds in 2015; the answer was yes; he suggested working with those counties to find a solution / resolve the problem. Ms. Billings-Pezaris suggested loading inmates in a vehicle and parading them around the state house; Commissioner Brown proposed to drop them off on the front steps. The jails have been underfunded since 2008. Mr. L. Snow suggested filing a Class Action suit with other affected Maine Counties. Commissioner Joy stated “under the old law, the state should pay what is owed, under the new law each county is responsible for jail costs.” Mr. Dickson questioned what would happen in May when the jail runs out of money and asked if the jail could be closed. Mr. Schatz suggested postponing the discussion until they can get a handle on it adding that there is no point in speculating at this time.
The three biggest departments in the FY16 budget are the Jail, the Sheriff’s Office and the cost of Health insurance. It was questioned if running out of money referred to cash flow or budgetary funding, the answer was cash flow. Without supplemental funds, issues will follow. Sheriff Kane is working to save money through an ankle bracelet program among other things; personnel is the highest expense. Mr. Grindal suggested shutting down a portion of the jail; minimum staffing dictated by the State affects this scenario. Commissioner Joy stated that if the inmate population was reduced to under 20, they may be able to reduce staff. Mr. Schatz requested a discussion regarding statutory requirements for running the jail during the sheriff’s portion of the budget.
Commissioner Brown closed the hearing at 6:24 p.m.