ALFRED — York County Commissioners say they’ll likely decide next month whether they’ll vote to abolish the elected part-time position of county treasurer and ask voters countywide to support their decision in a November referendum. If they decide to do so, and voters agree, the position would become an appointed one.

On Wednesday, it seemed like several of the five commissioners had already made up their mind — though no vote was taken and questions remained on when the results of a referendum, should it be passed by voters, might go into effect.

The position was characterized as ceremonial by County Manager Greg Zinser; the county has employed a full-time finance director for the last several years.

“If it is ceremonial and these functions have been taken over, it should be eliminated — the sooner the better,” said Commissioner Richard Clark. 

“I agree with Commissioner Clark. … I would think put it on the ballot in November,” said Commissioner Michael Cote.

Frank Wood of Saco is the elected county treasurer through Dec. 31 and announced three weeks ago he would not seek re-election to the part-time, four-year term in the November election. Democrat Bob Mills of Biddeford last week said he would seek his party’s nomination for the treasurer’s job in the June primary and then go on to run in the November election. Mills on Wednesday night said he still plans to run, referendum or not.

Wood earns about $7,000 in the part-time position, but when commissioners reviewed starting salaries for all elected officials in 2014, they reduced the salary to $500 annually for any newly elected treasurer, while reserving the right to adjust the figure as they saw fit.

While York County employs a full time finance director, there are certain documents that can only be signed by the treasurer, an office outlined in Maine statutes. The treasurer must be bonded, reviews payment of bills and payroll (called warrants) and  authorizes investments, among other tasks, the statutes say. It is the treasurer’s name that appears on county paychecks.

Dutremble said while he believes the elected position should be abolished, he said voters might be confused if the referendum question came at the same time there were names on the ballot of those seeking the elected position.

He suggested the county consider waiting two years to put the question to voters.

“That is a valid point, but the sooner we eliminate it, the better off we’ll be,” said Cote.

Commission Chairman Sallie Chandler asked Zinser for a report on what options are available for the next meeting, set for March 7.  

Maine statutes outline two possible options: Forming a charter commission and adopting a county charter, which could convert the position from elected to appointed, or the second option of a referendum aimed solely at  converting the treasurer’s position.

York County government has contemplated a charter in the past, but support for the proposal was lacking.

According to the Maine County Commissioners Association, Maine’s 16 counties have a mix of elected or appointed treasurers. Knox County switched from an elected treasurer position to an appointed one in 2007. In that county, the finance director is also the treasurer.

Androscoggin County Administrator Larry Post said the switch was made in his county, through the adoption of a county charter,  in 2016. In Androscoggin County, the finance director is also the appointed treasurer.

Commissioners in Hancock County have also discussed making a switch, but it was unclear Thursday if that process was in motion.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: