Town meeting to be by written ballot; absentee voting encouraged

by Mary Grow

Outgoing China Town Manager Dennis Heath explained some of the main questions on the July 14 town business meeting warrant and their financial effects at a June 14 public hearing.

The July 14 meeting will be by written ballot, with polls open at the town office complex on Lakeview Drive from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. After a moderator is elected, voters will check the yes or no box on 23 questions, the majority dealing with the proposed 2020-21 budget. The final question asks them to make approved expenditures retroactive to July 1, 2020, the beginning of the fiscal year.

Those who do not want to come to the polls July 14 may request an absentee ballot from the town office.

The warrant is printed in the 2019 town report, with the snowman on the cover, available at the town office and other places in town. A copy of the warrant and information on absentee ballots are on the China website under Elections.

At the hearing, Heath explained that an original set of proposed expenditures prepared in expectation of an April meeting has been revised downward, because he expects China’s revenues will decline.

The warrant proposes reducing the initial 2020-21 paving budget by more than $260,000, cutting repaving from 6.77 miles to 3.76 miles. Planned repaving that will be postponed is about a third of a mile on Upper Deer Hill Road, about two-thirds of a mile on Back Deer Hill Road and about a mile each on Wing and Dirigo roads.

Almost another $130,000 has been cut from other accounts, Heath said. He expects the recommended reductions will more than offset currently-expected revenue declines.

The warrant articles do not include the 2020-21 school budget. Heath said the proposed increase in school spending from the current year to 2020-21 is about $5,600, very small.

If voters approve all requested spending, as of June 14 Heath expects they will increase their tax rate from 16.3 mils ($16.30 for each $1,000 of valuation) to 16.5 mils.

He and Ronald Breton, chairman of the Selectboard, said that China has surplus funds amounting to more than $1 million. “This town is solvent,” Breton said emphatically.

Heath added that China also has upgraded telephone and computer systems that residents should find helpful. He praised the selectboard for letting him do the work in the current fiscal year.

Final hearing set for June 30

China’s second and final hearing on the July 14 town business meeting warrant is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 30, in the town office meeting room.

The July 14 voting will be by written ballot; there will be no opportunity to discuss or question proposed expenditures. Absentee ballots are available through the town office for those who do not want to go to the polls in person.

The first hearing on the warrant, held June 14 at Erskine Academy, was attended by the town manager and two selectmen; two town office employees (non-residents who cannot vote in China); one budget committee member; and one representative of The Town Line newspaper. Video of the session can be found here.


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