PARIS — The Oxford County Budget Committee has adopted a nearly $5.9 million budget for fiscal year 2013, which could mean town assessments will be the same or less than this year
The action was taken Tuesday night during a two-hour meeting at the Oxford County Commission office. The approval follows the commissioners' budget recommendations.
The tax commitment is based on county, local government and school district assessments but because each of the 37 towns shares the burden proportionately, the amount assessed to each will be different. In general, the county portion represents about 5 to 7 percent of the overall tax assessment to the towns, county administrator Scott Cole said.
Commissioners decided to lessen the tax burden on towns in fiscal year 2013 by taking $360,000 from the Oxford Casino reserve fund that has been set up.
Current statute provides Oxford County with 1 percent of the gross amount of all wagers (slots and tables) placed at the casino on Route 26. It has provided the county with about $11,000 per week since its opening on June 5.
Since the casino opened in June, the county's reserve fund now has about $225,00 in it.
“It's another source of money,” Cole said.
Additionally, because there will be sufficient funds in the reserve account, the commissioners have agreed to withdraw $275,000 to finance the one-time purchase of 10 replacement cruisers for the Sheriff's Department.
Many of the 23 cruisers in the fleet have well over 100,000 miles on them, some approaching 200,000. Sheriff Wayne Gallant said once the 10 are purchased, the department will go back to its usual rotation of four replacement cruisers a year.
The casino money is being used to avoid paying interest from traditional long-term bank financing. There will be an annual $91,667 payback over a three-year period to the reserve fund from taxpayers.
Calling it a “new dynamic” in the commissioners budgeting process, Cole said the commissioners sought in-depth legal opinion on how the money could be used and have determined that it's unrestricted.
“They have adopted a conservative approach to only use money in hand, spending only what is there,” Cole said.
The Budget Committee approved a dozen other department budgets Tuesday night, including $219,236 for the Emergency Management Agency; $198,061 for the District Attorney's office; $350,038 for the commissioners, and $261,384 for building and grounds.
Other budgets approved include $693,035 for the regional communications center, $84,933 for Registry of Deeds West; $193,315 for Registry of Deeds East, and $134,676 for the probate department.
The budget now goes back to the three commissioners for adoption in December.
The Budget Committee comprises Rick Micklon of Otisfield, who was elected chairman, Robert Heard of Porter, Russell Newcomb of Norway, Richard Hunt of Waterford, Bradford Adley of Rumford, Lee Holman of Hartford, Les Flanders of Lincoln Plantation, Dennis Henderson of West Paris and Floyd Thayer of Oxford.