OXFORD — Voters at the annual town meeting Saturday sent a loud message to selectmen by reducing the majority of the board’s budget recommendations 2 percent.

Some 100 voters and a dozen nonresidents packed the Oxford Elementary School cafeteria to act on the 32-article warrant. Some challenged a $1.27 million payment toward a 20-year bond for construction of the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

The approved budget is about $53,000 less than the selectmen’s recommendation of $5.79 million, a 28.12 percent increase over last year’s budget.

The exact impact of the increase will not be known until August, but based on what selectmen had recommended, the impact to taxpayers would be a 9.74 percent increase, interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott said.

Amendments proposed by Peter Cushman to reduce many of the  selectmen’s recommendations by 10 percent failed in favor of voter Henry Jackson’s 2 percent reduction.

The highway department and administration each took about a $13,000 hit, while the Fire Department amount was cut by $10,000.

Voters chose not to cut the Police Department’s account after Police Chief Jon Tibbetts explained that the department already took at $35,000-plus reduction from last year’s budget.

“We’re as tight as we can make it and still provide the services we provide,” he said. The budget is $859,868 for 2017-18.

Newly hired Fire Chief Gary Sacco of New Gloucester promised voters he would conduct a careful review of the department’s equipment, put together a schedule for replacement and look at other areas that need to be addressed such as a lack of hydrants in some areas.

Voters approved the selectmen’s recommendation of $310,000 for the Rescue Department and $75,000 for the Fire Traffic  Protection account.

Three amendments to change the selectmen’s recommendation of $788,150 Capital Improvements Project account failed.

The Capital Improvements Projects account includes money for roadwork, including rebuilding Lake Street where sewer pipes are expected to be extended; two sections of Sam Hill Road and Hebron Road.

It also includes $50,000 for the expected replacement of the Welchville Dam on the Little Androscoggin River. A special town meeting will probably be called this year to raise and appropriate another $900,000 or so, once bids are available, Lippincott said.

Sewer payment challenged

The majority of voters authorized the Board of Selectmen to make the $1.27 million payment for the sewer plant construction bond, after a lengthy discussion.

“I’d rather have more pencils for the school than pay for a sewer I’ll never use,” one voter said.

Board Chairman Scott Owens said the money is not coming out of the taxpayers pocket but rather from user fees and Tax-Increment Financing money, which is local tax revenues generated by properties within the designated Route 26 business district, including the Oxford Casino.

Residents are being asked to take advantage of a hookup incentive program but many have balked, saying their system is fine.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” resident Henry Jackson told voters. “This is the year we have to pay for it.”

If the payment is not made, town officials said the Oxford’s credit rating would be ruined and the government could come in and take whatever property they wanted to pay back the bond.

A meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, at the Oxford Municipal Complex on Pleasant Street to provide more information on the incentive program to hook into the sewer system.

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Oxford interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott addresses budget questions from voters at the annual town meeting Saturday as moderator Ron Kugell and Town Clerk Beth Olsen listen.


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