PARIS — The Oxford County Budget Committee authorized using $850,000 out of its Casino Fund to help lower the tax levy.
The committee, which finalized the $11.7 million budget Tuesday night, originally wanted to double the amount taken from the Casino Fund to $1.7 million, but was warned by commissioners and the treasurer not to take money from the fund due to a potential shortfall in jail funding from the state.
After heeding those concerns, the Budget Committee first rejected taking $1 million out of the account, but then ratified the suggested $850,00, the same amount used last year to lower the tax levy.
The amount required to be raised by taxes for the new fiscal year is expected to be 1.8% lower than last year’s rate.
The Casino Fund comes from revenues generated by the Oxford Casino in the town of Oxford, which opened in 2012. The county receives 1% of those revenues. The county has previously used those funds to lower the tax rate or for capital purchases, such as vehicles.
At the start of the budget season, Oxford County had $2,256,744 in its casino fund. Due to COVID-19 which limited the casino’s revenues, the fund only grew by $207,156 this year. By contrast, the county received more than $862,000 in 2017.
The county will now enter 2021 with approximately $1.4 million in the fund, roughly half of the amount at the end of 2019.
The Budget Committee, with only a few questions, approved the 2021 county budget with no changes as chairman Rick Micklon of Otisfield led the committee through the budget in under 2½ hours. Reggie Arsenault of Mexico attempted to cut approximately $20,000 from several of the outside agencies that receive county funding, such as Western Maine Transportation, the Bethel Regional Airport, Community Concepts and the Androscoggin River Watershed Council, but he was overruled by the rest of the committee.