China select board hears first budget draft

by Mary Grow

China select board and budget committee members met together Feb. 5 to hear Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood’s presentation of the first draft of the 2024-25 municipal budget.

By Hapgood’s figures, the fiscal year 2023-24 budget for municipal departments totaled a bit over $4.4 million. The preliminary request for FY 2024-25 comes to $4.9 million.

The manager had no figures yet for the 2024-25 school budget ($5.2 million this year) or Kennebec County budget ($607,333 this year). She expects both will increase.

Select board and budget committee members will review proposed 2024-25 expenditures and potential income this month and next, to produce a budget the select board recommends to voters. Voters will act on the 2024-25 budget at the June 11 annual town business meeting, and it will become effective July 1.

Hapgood said China is in good shape financially, debt-free and with a healthy surplus. She summarized changes proposed for the new fiscal year.

Two potential new expenditures are the storage vault at the town office, to be partly paid for with federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds; and perhaps setting up a kayak and paddleboard rental station on China Lake (see the Feb. 1 issue of The Town Line, p. 3).
The proposed wage increase for town employees is 3.2 percent (cost of living adjustment) plus 1 percent merit raises.
Hapgood would like to add two employees, if they can be found: a half-time community program director, and a person whom she described as “an attorney, a planner and consultant,” whose salary would come partly from funds that would otherwise be used to pay for outside legal services. She also sees a need for an assistant animal control officer.
As discussed previously at select board meetings, Delta Ambulance’s service fee will increase from $15 per resident to $25 per resident, increasing China’s charge from $66,300 this year to $110,200 in 2024-25.
Hapgood recommends an increase in the public works department’s budget, because, she explained, the department should, if possible, hire a mechanic, to minimize sending equipment away for repairs; two trucks are due for replacement soon, and she advises starting a reserve fund for building expansion; and a summer intern is included, whose main job would be to map every culvert in China.

With projected increases in the price of paving and other areas, the preliminary recommendation for the 2024-25 public works budget is $1.86 million, up from $1.63 million this year.

Select board members are likely to begin discussing the budget at their next regular meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday, Feb. 12.

Budget committee members did not set their next meeting; Hapgood proposed they meet alternate Monday evenings from the select board, if that schedule was convenient.


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