China selectmen make final two decisions on budget

by Mary Grow

China selectmen have made the last two decisions to put their 2021-22 budget recommendations in final form, ready for budget committee review.

At a special meeting Feb. 8, board members agreed unanimously to recommend 3 percent salary increases for town employees; and to recommend a contract with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office that would replace the local police force.

In preparation for the meeting, Town Manager Becky Hapgood calculated the total cost of different salary increases, from 1 percent to 4 percent. She had initially recommended and calculated the effect of 3 percent raises, but the three men on the board leaned toward 2.5 percent.

When it came to a vote, however, Chairman Ronald Breton, Blane Casey and Wayne Chadwick supported Irene Belanger’s and Janet Preston’s motion for 3 percent. Preston pointed out that the half-percent difference was only about $3,500.

Hapgood reported the offer from the Sheriff’s Department, explaining that the proposed contract would supply 10 hours of service a week in addition to the usual law enforcement services the town gets in return for county taxes. Hours would be flexible, and she would keep track of them.

If voters accept the proposal at the May 18 annual town business meeting, current part-time policemen would not longer be hired. China would still pay separately for emergency services dispatching; Hapgood is budgeting about $40,000 for 2021-22.

Hapgood told selectmen it looks as though the budget as proposed would increase China’s mil rate (the amount of tax for each $1,000 of valuation) by about half a mil, or 50 cents per $1,000 of valuation. However, she emphasized, the figure is nowhere near firm; even if voters approve the budget as it now stands, the tax rate cannot be fixed until the town assessor finishes his review of properties and recommends a new total town valuation.

The first 2021-22 budget committee meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10.

In other business, selectmen took no action on South China Fire Chief Richard Morse’s request for a $2,000 increase in the part of his budget listed under Community Organizations and intended to recognize firefighters’ time. The current recommendation is that voters appropriate $10,000 each for the three town fire departments and China Rescue. Morse wrote that his department has the most members and responds to the most calls.

Hapgood said the Feb. 14 fishing derby sponsored by the Four Seasons Club and the China Village fire department will end with a 5:30 p.m. fireworks display from the head of China Lake’s east basin. Presenters will clean up the ice afterward, she said.

The town office has now reinstated Saturday morning hours, so it will be open Saturday, Feb. 13, from 8 to 11 a.m. It will be closed Monday, Feb. 15, for the Presidents’ Day holiday, and the next regular selectmen’s meeting is postponed a day, to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16.


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