Oxford offers voters $5.5M budget, retail marijuana ordinance

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RED COAT - The cover of the 2018 Town Report features this painting by Ruth Friberg. Town Clerk Beth Olsen said she decided to feature local artists on the Town Report covers last year. Beverly Laverdiere was the first featured artist. "I knew we wanted to feature Ruth this year. We looked through her work, and this piece stood out to me," said Olsen of the selection entitled, "Red Coat in Oxford, Maine." Resident artists are encouraged to submit their artwork for consideration of future Town Report covers.

OXFORD — Voters will be asked to approve a $5.5 million municipal budget and pass an ordinance prohibiting of retail marijuana establishments when Annual Town Meeting gets underway on Saturday, June 9.

Action on the 39-article warrant gets underway Saturday, June 9 at 10 a.m. in the Oxford Elementary School on Pleasant Street. The approval of the municipal budget will set the foundation for the setting of the tax rate later this summer.

In 2017, the municipal tax rate was set at $14.70 per thousand, an increase from 2016, and marked the second year in a row that real estate taxes rose.

If all of the budget articles pass, the total municipal budget will be set at $5,573,236.28. Last year, town meeting voters approved a $5.738 budget after the majority of voters agreed to cut many line items by two percent.

The municipal budget does not include the $4,015,048 assessment for SAD 17 and the $410,626 assessment to the county.

Officials note that due to legal spending limitations placed on Maine towns by State legislation this year’s money articles have been capped and the town cannot exceed the amounts stated in the articles.

The Board of Selectmen did not support the Budget Committee’s recommendations across the board.

Some selectmen did disagree with the Budget Committee recommendations on several items including the proposed $594,210.78 Capital Improvements Project Account that would fund two police cruisers, two ambulances and a street sweeper for the Highway Department. A few selectmen said at a special meeting on April 26 that the lease of a street sweeper was more cost efficient than the purchase for example.

The selectboard as a whole did not support the Budget Committee’s recommendation to partially fund the requests of two non-profit organizations.

Thompson Lake Environmental Association is requesting $4,500 for milfoil eradication on Pine Point but the Budget Committee recommends only $2,000, and the Board of Selectmen is recommending zero funding.

The Board of Selectmen has also recommended zero funding for a $5,000 request from the Androscoggin Home & Hospice. The Budget Committee is requesting the full amount.

Selectmen have said that they believe taxpayers should not be forced to put their tax money toward nonprofits groups. They should instead donate if they wish to. The board is expected to develop a policy for future financial requests from nonprofits.

Ordinance changes

Voters are being asked to approve an ordinance to prohibit retail marijuana establishments and retail marijuana social clubs. The proposed ban, includes retail marijuana stores and cultivation facilities, but does not prohibit lawful use, possession or conduct that is regulated under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.

Voters are also being asked to amend the Oxford Sewer and Oxford Zoning Ordinances.

Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman told selectmen at its April 5 meeting that the changes were “really more housekeeping,” such as tightening up definitions. They are necessary, she said, to ensure enforceability and dependability of the ordinances.

Copies of the ordinances are available at town office for review.

Budget requests

Voters will act on a number of other budget articles including requests to raise and appropriate:

$720,765.04 for the administration account which includes a 2 percent cost of living increase;

$645,284.57 for the Highway Department;

$822,766.95 for the Police Department, which includes money to fill a position;

$379,127.30 for the Fire Department;

$309,752.00 Rescue Department;

$280,535.81 for the Transfer Station;

$282,447.63 for the Waste Water Treatment account.

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