Cumberland County’s commissioners will have more of a role to play in overall management of the county-owned Cross Insurance Arena next year.

Under state legislation approved this year, the commissioners will be able to raise or lower the annual budget adopted by the arena’s seven trustees. The expanded authority had been sought by the commissioners, who wanted to have a stronger hand in the finances of the Portland venue.

In the 30 years from 1981 to 2011, the arena ran a deficit of $380,000. But in the last four years, from 2012-2016, the deficit has grown to $1.8 million.

Mitchell Berkowitz, the chairman of the trustees, who are selected by commissioners, still will be responsible for most spending decisions. The commissioners, he said, can only approve or reject the bottom line of the trustees’ budget and can’t dictate individual spending decisions.

Jim Gailey, the county manager, said the commissioners and trustees will begin working later this year on how to transition to the new oversight role. He said the legislation dictates that it take effect Jan. 1, 2018, but with the arena on a July 1-June 30 budget schedule, it likely will take several months into the new year to work out how the commissioners and trustees will collaborate on budgets.

The state legislation was required because when the arena was built in 1977, lawmakers established a separate district to oversee the facility. It was originally called the Cumberland County Civic Center before naming rights were sold.

Since the arena’s renovation in 2014-15, it has struggled financially, hurt by the departure of the Portland Pirates hockey team after the 2016 season and a decrease in concert bookings, part of a nationwide trend where acts increasingly shun midsized indoor arenas in favor of larger outdoor summer concerts.

The hope was that the arena would be able to contribute about $1 million a year toward repayment of the $33 million bond that financed the renovation, Gailey said. But it has been unable to contribute anything since reopening; the repayment costs have fallen completely on county taxpayers.

This year, the bond payment is slightly more than $2 million and Gailey said that annual bill will grow for the next two years before leveling off and eventually falling over the 25-year repayment period.

Gailey also said the county is repaying a $1.2 million bond to pay for a new scoreboard in the arena.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

[email protected]