Manager presents proposed 2019 budget at meeting

by Mary Grow

At a Jan. 11 meeting, China Town Manager Dennis Heath presented selectmen and budget committee members with proposed municipal budget articles for the April 6 town business meeting.

The manager’s draft rearranges expenditure requests into what he sees as logical categories. One result is fewer articles.

For example, instead of a warrant article asking voters to appropriate funds for insurance (Art. 15 in the 2018 warrant), insurance costs are listed as part of each department’s expenses, as a line item in requests for the police department, public works, fire and rescue services and transfer station.

Town boards and committees are together in one proposed article. It includes a new parks committee, based on Heath’s recommendation to rename the Thurston Park II Committee and give it jurisdiction over both Thurston Park and the school forest behind China Primary School.

Out-of-town social services are combined in one article, in-town “Community support organizations” in another.

Street signs and street lights, which had a separate article in past years (Art. 20 in 2018), are listed under public works. Heath said a proposed increase in street light expenses from $7,200 to $10,000 is in anticipation of additional lights on the causeway at the head of China Lake’s east basin and in “other parts of town where appropriate.” Heath also advises changes in both the use of TIF (Tax Increment Finance) money and the presentation of TIF warrant articles. One article deleted after many years is the request to give part of the snowmobile registration tax refund from the state to the China Four Seasons Club (Art. 21 in 2018). Heath said since town money is not being appropriated, he thinks the article is unnecessary.

In an introduction to the budget document, Heath explained that he asked heads of town departments to help develop it.

He predicted the effect of the proposed municipal budget on the tax rate will be a small increase, about 35 cents for each $1,000 of valuation, but quickly added that until the school and county requests are known, no accurate prediction is possible. The town meeting warrant is also likely to include proposed ordinance amendments presented by the planning board. A public hearing on the changes is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Future budget discussions include a selectmen’s workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, and a budget committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23. The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Selectmen and budget committee members discussed two other changes in the town meeting warrant.

They agreed the selectmen’s and budget committee recommendations that follow articles will give the number of votes in each group – instead of saying simply “Select Board recommends yes,” the line will add the number of board members voting yes and no.

They are considering eliminating or moving to the end of the warrant the speeches and presentations that delay the start of voting and often duplicate information in the annual town report.


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