OXFORD – County Commissioner Caldwell Jackson told selectmen that a variety of factors have led to the increase in the county budget this year.

The county budget is up 8.7 percent from last year, exceeding the state tax cap of 4.34 percent. That is after the commissioners and Budget Committee recommended $89,680 in total reductions to initial requests. Department heads had projected a 10.86 percent increase, with expenditures of $5,241,878, along with a cap for the Oxford County Jail of $1,228,757, and revenues of $1,856,788.

The 2008 budget was 5.03 percent more than 2007.

Jackson, who served as an Oxford selectman for 13 years before being elected commissioner, said factors leading to the higher figure include a $90,000 increase to the county’s employees due to the calendar necessitating a 53rd paycheck and the Sheriff’s Office having to pay the full salary of the sheriff under the new jail plan, where it was once split with the jail budget.

Jackson said the county locked in on fuel during the summer, when prices were higher, and is unable to renegotiate. He said higher fuel costs have also been figured into accounts such as vehicle fuel.

“Hopefully that will come down,” Jackson said.

The county has also seen a decrease in Registry of Deeds revenues and must pay 2.5 percent of a $1,873,400 Federal Aviation Administration grant to upgrade its Oxford County Regional Airport.

Jackson said the county budget would have had a 3.35 percent increase if not for the different factors.

Town Manager Michael Chammings said he did not agree with the commissioners receiving health benefits, which Jackson said amounted to $8,340 a year.

“I just don’t know how that’s fair when everyone else is cutting back,” Chammings said.

Jackson said commissioners have received health benefits for 46 years.

Selectman Dennis Sanborn said commissioners can save money by changing to a fiscal year, and that commissioners have received permission to do so from the Legislature.

“It seems pretty strange that we can save $44,000 a year and we’re not going to do it,” Sanborn said.

Jackson said commissioners support changing from a calendar year to a fiscal year of July 1 to June 30 and will do so next year. He said towns on calendar years have protested the difficulties involved in complying with the county’s change, and commissioners have considered monthly payments to the county to ease difficulties.

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