Paying for County Patrol (sidebar)

(from Maine Townsman, December 2004)
By Kate Dufour, Legislative Advocate, MMA

At its December meeting, a majority of the MMA Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) members in attendance voted to develop and advance a bill changing the way counties assess the cost of non-contracted rural sheriff’s patrol on municipalities.

The LPC proposal would require the county commissioners to calculate the budgeted cost of non-contracted rural sheriff patrol services separately from the total county assessment. The cost of the rural patrol service would be assessed on the basis of use rather than on the basis of municipal valuation, as nearly all other county services are assessed.

Municipal officials have often debated the issue of how municipalities should pay for county patrol services. Some municipal officials believe that the communities that rely on rural patrol should be assessed separately for that service. The municipal officials in towns without a police department typically believe that when the entire county budget is taken into account, there are some services provided disproportionately to the people in rural towns and other services provided disproportionately to their more urban counterparts.

After the LPC vote, MMA began to receive some immediate feedback from the officials in member municipalities who were very concerned about the LPC’s decision. Following a protocol formerly established several years ago, MMA’s Executive Committee voted to request that the LPC engage in further discussion regarding its decision to advance this legislation at the LPC’s next meeting on January 20, 2005.

As part of its request, the Executive Committee is suggesting the development of a more comprehensive county financing proposal that might be developed by MMA and initiated after the School Finance and Tax Reform Act of 2003 is implemented.