Oxford hopes to keep taxes down in face of LePage budget proposal

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OXFORD — The town hopes to use money from Oxford Casino to help offset revenue losses if Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal passes, Town Manager Michael Chammings told selectmen Thursday.

Chammings discussed the proposal’s potential effect on Oxford, noting that it would eliminate the Homestead Exemption and the “circuit breaker” tax relief program for residents under 65 years. He said most property owners have had a homestead exemption, but the town didn’t keep track of their ages when granting them.

The proposal would also have excise taxes for trucks that pull trailers handed over to the state, instead of going to the town. LePage’s proposal also limits General Assistance eligibility. Chammings said that would hurt a lot of residents who have trouble paying for heating oil.

Chammings said it’s unlikely the proposal will pass in full. “I don’t think it’s going to go through the way it is,” he said.

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Selectman and state Rep. Roger Jackson agreed. “It’s just a proposal.”

Chammings said with casino revenue coming in, Oxford is better positioned than most towns and cities to handle a greater burden on municipalities.

Oxford is “one of the most financially sound towns in the state,” he said.

The town received 2 percent of casino revenues from table games and slot machines, which totaled more than $270,000 in 2012.

The casino opened in June 2012.

Chammings said that in addition to lowering tax rates, the casino revenue is refilling the town’s cash reserves, which have been draining as the town kept the tax rate level in the face of the recession. Once the town has about 12 percent of its operating budget in reserves, casino money will help out the town’s capital improvement fund.

“Next year, how we’re going to use that is, I think, going to be a lot dependent on how this budget proposal goes and how the school goes,” Chammings said. “We want to keep our (tax) rate flat.”

treaves@sunjournal.com

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