Selectmen complete work on town meeting warrant

by Mary Grow

China selectmen completed their work on the warrant for the April 6 town business meeting at a Feb. 5 budget workshop, giving Town Manager Dennis Heath the direction he needed to draft the document.

Heath quickly came up with a 29-article draft warrant. The first two articles ask voters to elect a moderator and to approve or reject the annual authorization to exceed the state limit on taxes if necessary. The final three articles ask voters to approve or reject changes to three sections of China’s Land Use Ordinance.

Articles 3 through 26 deal with the proposed 2019-2020 municipal budget and the usual associated questions, like setting tax due dates.

This year’s warrant omits reports from town committees, which voters have objected to as prolonging the meeting and duplicating information in the printed town report.

To further shorten the meeting, Selectman Irene Belanger said she will make the annual Spirit of America awards for volunteerism at 8:50 a.m., 10 minutes before the meeting starts, instead of during a mid-meeting break.

The draft warrant was forwarded to the budget committee for its review at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 11 (see related story here).

Selectmen made several changes in the draft warrant.

They are asking voters to increase their annual stipends from $1,000 to $1,800, a figure board member Ronald Breton said is still below the $1,900+ average for selectmen in towns China’s approximate size. At Breton’s suggestion, supported by board Chairman Robert MacFarland, they reinstated cost-of-living pay increases for town employees and deleted funds for the merit raises Heath had recommended.

Heath said a potentially costly legal issue might be pending, so selectmen increased the recommended amount for 2019-2020 legal expenses from $10,000 to $20,000.

They added the Crisis and Counseling Center to the list of out-of-town social service agencies requesting town funds. The Center’s request is for $528.

Stipends for volunteer firefighters were again discussed at length and both the allocated amount of money and the proposed procedure adjusted. The public works budget saw minor changes.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Feb. 19, because the town office will be closed Monday, Feb. 18, for the Presidents’ Day holiday.


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