China selectmen have decided the 2021 annual town business meeting at which the budget is approved will be conducted by written ballot, not at an open meeting. They have not set a date; March and June 2021 were suggested at their Aug. 17 meeting.
Until 2020, the business meeting was an open meeting, held recently in the primary school gymnasium on a Saturday morning in late March or early April, with a quorum of 120 voters needed to start the meeting. Pandemic restrictions on large gatherings led to the cancellation of the April 2020 meeting. It was rescheduled as a written ballot on July 14, with approved expenditures retroactive to the July 1 beginning of the fiscal year.
Selectmen do not know what restrictions, if any, will be in effect next spring. They agreed they should be prepared; and if the past is a guide, a written-ballot election will bring more voter participation than an open meeting.
Selectmen to hold special meeting
China selectmen will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, primarily to set the 2020-21 tax rate. Town Manager Becky Hapgood said their decision should make it possible to mail tax bills early in September. By town meeting vote, the first half payment of 2020-21 taxes is due at the town office by the 2 p.m. closing time Friday, Sept. 25.
A proposal to set a March meeting date was deleted from the decision after Town Manager Becky Hapgood said that preparations for a written ballot require more advance time than preparations for an open meeting. Because of the need to have ballots available well before election day, she estimated selectmen might need to have the entire budget in final form as much as 75 days before the scheduled vote.
Last spring, she reminded them, they were working on the budget into February in anticipation of an early-April meeting.
Hapgood also suggested if the town vote were combined with the school budget vote, which has in normal years been in June, the town would save money. She plans to prepare a timeline to guide board members as they find an appropriate date.
In other business Aug. 17:
- Hapgood outlined plans to use a $31,360 Covid-19 grant for a variety of purposes, including additional signs and weekly mailings to keep residents informed, touchless hand-sanitizer dispensers and refills for town buildings and personal protective equipment.
- She described plans to share a counter clerk with the Town of Windsor, with the person working a 40-hour week, half in one town office and half in the other. There would be no additional cost to China, she said, and the new employee would benefit by getting experience faster than by working half-time.
- Looking at two issues related to codes enforcement, board members unanimously endorsed Codes Officer Bill Butler’s recommendation to approve a holding tank on Fire Road 20, and asked Hapgood to ask Butler to review penalties for codes violations to see if fines should be increased.
After the Aug. 24 special selectmen’s meeting to set the 2021 tax rate, the next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Aug. 31.
Many take out nomination papers
As of Aug. 17, the following China residents were circulating nomination papers for local elective office.
- For three seats on the board of selectmen, incumbents Ronald Breton and Janet Preston, plus Blane Casey, Brent A. Chesley, Milton F. Dudley, Peter Foote and Jeanne Marquis. The other incumbent whose term ends in 2020 is Donna Mills-Stevens.
- For the at-large position on the planning board, Brent A. Chesley, Megan Marquis and incumbent James C. Wilkens; for the District 2 seat, incumbent Toni Wall; and no one for the District 4 seat now held by chairman Thomas Miragliuolo.
- For the at-large seat and the secretary’s position on the budget committee, no one is circulating papers. Incumbents Thomas A. Rumpf and Timothy Basham are seeking nominations for re-election in District 2 and District 4, respectively.
Signed nomination papers must be returned to the town office by the 2 p.m. closing time Friday, Sept. 4, for candidates’ names to appear on the Nov. 3 local ballot.