China selectmen held April 26 public hearings on two pieces of the June 8 town business meeting warrant, the amendment to the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Program that is Art. 16 and the warrant as a whole. While the first drew no public comments, several people zoomed in to discuss other articles.
Tiffany Glidden and Fred Glidden both had questions about the funding for town boards and committees in Art. 5.
To the general question about why voters should allocate $1,000 to most committees, Selectboard Chairman Ronald Breton and Town Manager Becky Hapgood replied that since committee members were volunteers, they should have opportunities for training, workshops and other related activities. Some boards also need to pay for secretarial services.
To the specific question about funding for a proposed building in the Town Forest behind China Primary School, they said the committee that oversees the forest requested it. At a selectboard meeting earlier in the year, Anita Smith and Elaine Philbrook described the building as partly for storage, mostly for a classroom for nature education for children and adults.
Fred Glidden suggested using the nearby school building instead, and Tiffany Glidden would have preferred the building funds as a separate article. She feared inclusion of the building money might lead voters to reject the entire article.
Should voters reject that or any other spending article for 2021-22, Art. 26 (if it is approved) provides one remedy, Hapgood said. Art. 26 says if any proposed 2021-22 expenditure article is not approved, the amount appropriated in the current fiscal year shall become the budget for next year.
If an expenditure is not approved, selectmen can call a new vote to fund the same purpose. But, Hapgood said, organizing a new vote takes more than two months, with public notice requirements, ballot printing and the rest of the preparations. With town meeting on June 8 and the new fiscal year beginning July 1, there is not time for a revote before money is needed.
Each Glidden also questioned an item in Art. 4, administration and related costs. Fred Glidden wanted to know about building maintenance and plans. Hapgood detailed some of the needed repairs in the town office complex and said that the planned addition to the town office building was to provide secure storage for documents the state requires towns to keep.
Tiffany Glidden asked why town employees are slated for a three percent raise when many private-sector employees have had wages or hours reduced or have lost jobs entirely. Selectmen gave her two replies. Wayne Chadwick and Blane Casey, both contractors, said finding and keeping employees is not easy at present – it took five months to fill a public works position, Hapgood interjected. Janet Preston added the selectmen’s intention to show appreciation to staff members.
Copies of the town business meeting warrant are in the 2020 town report, now available at the town office and many other public locations in town, and on the website, china.govoffice.com. The complete TIF Second Amendment is on the website and is posted with warrant copies in local post offices.
Voters will decide questions by written ballot, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office. Absentee ballots will be available beginning May 10.
Breton expressed appreciation for the interest people showed at the hearing, but wished they had offered suggestions earlier, before it was too late to change the warrant. Selectmen started town meeting preparations last fall and discussed articles at most meetings in January and February; anyone can watch the meetings on line.
Breton invited more questions. Residents may submit them by email, telephone or mail for discussion at future selectmen’s meetings. The next two meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m., on Monday, May 10, and Monday, May 24.
The April 26 hearing was followed by a brief selectmen’s meeting, at which selectmen approved, after discussion, Hapgood’s request to take up to $10,000 from the selectmen’s discretionary fund to cover assessing costs, as needed. The manager explained that due to Covid-19, field work scheduled to be done and paid for in the 2019-20 fiscal year was postponed to July 2020, leaving too little money in the current 2020-21 budget to cover the remainder of this year’s work.
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