Oxford selectmen set tax rate

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The grand opening of the Oxford Casino Hotel on Route 26 on Nov. 9 of last year signaled additional revenues to the town of Oxford. The 107-room, four-story hotel is attached to Oxford Casino, which opened in 2012 and is owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

OXFORD — The town of Oxford has seen $14 million in new growth during the past year – the majority of it has come from the Oxford Casino Hotel.

Assessor Agent Donna Hayes told the Advertiser Democrat that $10 million of the overall $14 million has come from the construction of the Oxford Casino Hotel. According to information from Hayes, the hotel, which opened in November of 2017,  is valued at $34,466,300 in real estate and $9,851,260 in personal property.

All other increases in valuation for Fiscal 2019 is from the new homes, outbuildings and business personal property, she said.

The Board of Selectmen voted September 6 to set the 2018-19 tax rate at $14.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value, the same as last year.

Town Manager Butch Asselin said the tax rate remained flat because of the $14 million in new valuation, another $250,000 from more excise taxes and Oxford Casino revenue, and $200,000 that was transferred from the Fund Balance.

The Oxford Casino has been a significant source of revenues for the town since its construction in 2012. The town received $1.7 million from the table games and slot operations at Oxford Casino in 2017, according the Maine Gambling Control Board.

According to the Gambling Control Board, the town’s 2 percent of the net slot operations was $1.37 million and from table games, $351,283, last year.

In 2016, it was $1.3 million from slots and $312,757 from table games.

The town has traditionally used some of the casino revenues for tax relief.

Now with the Oxford Casino Hotel up an operating, those revenues from the casino property are expected to continue to expand. Officials say more revenue will be seen in the future once the Casino’s conference center is fully constructed and operating.

While the news appeared to be good, several board members, including Vice Chairman Scott Hunter and Samantha Hewey, questioned the use of anticipated funds.

“We’re spending money we don’t have,” Hunter said. “It’s not fiscally responsible to sit there and gamble.“

Hewey suggested the town “bank” more money as a cushion.

Asselin said, “It’s hard to create a savings account for something like this.”

Although the town budget expenses went down, the school and county assessments continue to increase, he said.

“We have to be optimistic,” he added.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net