PARIS — Oxford County departments are requesting an additional 7 percent in funding — a $.05 tax increase — in a first glance at the 2015 budget.
The county tax represents the smallest of the three claimants on residents’ property tax bills.
The 2015 proposal seeks $405,097 more from residents than last year — from $5,273,965 to $5,679,062. It would fully fund current programming and add two new positions if the budget proposal passes.
At $385,000, capital expenditures on building improvements comprise the lion’s share of that request.
The proposal calls for launching a $500,000, four-year plan to weatherproof the courthouse’s brick exterior at $125,000 a year, $100,000 of which would be split between roof repairs and renovations to the district attorney’s office.
It also calls for tearing out the concrete staircase, which County Administrator Scott Cole said is not in compliance with regulations, leading from the lower parking lot along Western Avenue up a steep hill and into the courthouse. It also calls for retrofitting it with heating elements for around $100,000, with the state footing half the bill.
“Repairs can be delayed, but ongoing degradation to the building will occur. We bring these numbers to the table with regret. On the other hand, we’d be derelict in our duty not to bring these expenditures to the voters,” Cole said.
Cole said his office is also requesting the creation of a new, full-time staff position. Tallying salary and benefits, the new administrative role is projected to cost up to $60,000.
The position would free county officials from certain routine tasks and help them focus on long-term goals, Cole said.
“It’s poor timing, but the circumstances are that there’s work here that’s overflowing,” he said.
Emergency management is also looking to add a part-time employee to oversee grant writing and various administrative tasks.
The recommendations are the first step of a four-step process to adopt the county’s budget. The current draft is scheduled for review by county commissioners, who will pass their recommendations to a the nine-member budget committee before the final document is voted on.
A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21, in the commissioners’ office at the courthouse on Western Avenue. The evening will include comment on the budget for the unorganized territories. That budget is due to increase roughly $16,600 for fiscal year 2015-16, mainly for increases to snowplowing.
The county could draw $460,000 from a reserve account where the Oxford Casino revenue pools — about 1 percent annually — to push down the tax rate, the same amount requested last year.
“The budget represents the departments putting their best foot forward. All departments are looking at the fiscal impact, but there’s a cost to programming,” Cole said.