OXFORD — It may be time for Oxford taxpayers to pay the piper.

Voters will be asked to approve a $5.79 million fiscal 2018 budget – a 28.12 percent increase – when annual town meeting gets underway Saturday, June 10.

Action on the 32-article warrant begins at 10 a.m. at the Oxford Elementary School, 79 Pleasant St.

The selectmen’s proposed overall budget is $5,792,425 – a 28.12 percent increase.  The Budget Committee’s proposed budget is $5,835,125 – a 29.09 percent increase.

The budget includes a request for $1,272,782 for the wastewater treatment plant account and a $436,850 increase in the Capital Improvement Projects Account.

Last year voters approved a $4.5 million budget that was 16 percent ($630,000) higher than the previous budget and resulted in the first tax increase in 12 years.

Budget details

Voters will be asked to approve the selectmen’s proposed $788,150 Capital Improvement Project Account recommendation – a $393,150 increase over the approved fiscal 2017’s $395,000 budget. The Budget Committee is recommending increasing the account budget to $831,850, or a $436,850 increase. The $43,700 difference is the only disagreement between the selectmen and Budget Committee in this year’s proposed budget.

Other increases requested this year include: a $21,991 increase in the proposed $403,460 Fire Department budget; a $59,230 increase in the proposed $643,461 Highway Department budget; a $10,000 increase in the proposed $92,576 Recreation Department budget and a $23,989 increase in the proposed $272,459 Transfer Station account.

The proposed fiscal 2018 budget also calls for a decrease of $35,952 in the proposed $859,868 Police Department budget and a $12,134 decrease in the proposed $310,549 Rescue Department budget.

In their annual report to voters, selectmen said this year’s budget is a result of “honest line item budgeting showing how the monies are expended in the Town of Oxford and of not ‘gambling’ on the flow of income from the [Oxford] casino for over spending.”

To keep the tax increase as low as possible, the board said members have designated casino revenues to fund the capital improvements but if casino revenues are reduced, the capital improvements will be halted.

Selectmen said they have also included expenditures and revenues that do not require property tax revenue but must be approved by voters and are funded in part by TIF revenues and user fees from existing customers.

Effect on taxes

After 12 years of a flat tax rate until last year when the mil rate increased by 95 cents to $13.20 per $1,000 valuation, this year selectmen say the municipal budget contains a “sizable” increase of cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

But the board say they can not, at this time, determine what the exact increase will be until the town meeting action is concluded and the mil rate is committed sometime in late August.

“Did you think it would last forever? Come on,” commented Selectman Floyd Thayer when resident Tom Cushman asked the board at its June 1 meeting to project the effect of the proposed budget on taxpayers.

Selectmen Chairman Scott Owens told Cushman and others at the meeting that 68 to 70 percent of the mil rate is for the SAD 17 school district’s assessment and 8 percent goes to Oxford County assessment. The rest is based on the approved municipal budget.

The preliminary fiscal 2018 SAD 17 school district budget of $39,688,294 is an increase of 1.73 or $674,415. Oxford’s total school assessment is $3,598,424, an increase of $269,865 or a 7.32 percent, from the last fiscal year.

Oxford County’s  commitment of $5,842,330 represents a $164,803 increase (2.9 percent) over 2016. Of that amount, Oxford’s assessment is $366,725.

The remainder of the tax impact will come from the municipal  budget that will be approved at the June 10 annual town meeting.

While selectmen said at their June 1 meeting that the tax impact could not be determined yet, Owens said that for every $446,000 on the municipal budget, it is another $1 on a property owner’s tax bill.

When the tax rate was increased last year, officials said the increase was due, in part, to an approximate $399,000 increase in the SAD 17 assessment over the previous two years and other factors including a reduction in revenue sharing by as much as $100,000, along with additional Homestead Exemptions.

The sewer budget did not impact the mil rate because it was offset by TIF revenues, according to officials last year.

That is no longer the case, according to Interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott.

Town Meeting 

In other town meeting action, voters will be asked to approved:

  • $51,200 for the Public Safety Building Account.
  • $16,850 for the Cemeteries Account.
  • $67,155 for the Insurance Account.
  • $75,000 for Long Term Debt Account.
  • $31,900 Freeland Holmes Library Account.
  • $25,514 Cost and Interest Account.

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