Chris Mitchell, executive director of Delta Ambulance, is seen in Waterville earlier this year. Delta is instituting a rate increase for its 13 partner towns in central Maine, including China, where it is one of the main factors pushing the town budget higher. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

CHINA — The Select Board voted unanimously Monday to send next year’s municipal budget, with a 9% increase, to voters at the June town meeting.

The proposed budget totals roughly $4.8 million, a increase of about $370,000 from this year. Town Manager Becky Hapgood said China’s budget is rising for the same reasons as other towns: inflation, the rising cost of labor, and increases in county and school budgets.

Residents’ tax bills will also account for a proposed increase of over 40% in Kennebec County’s budget and a 3.4% increase in the budget for Regional School Unit 18, which oversees China Primary and Middle schools.

“We were very cautious knowing there would be an increase in the RSU (18) budget and an increase in the county budget,” Hapgood said Tuesday. “Regular employee expenses across the board went up. The cost of labor always increases, never decreases.”

Select Board member Brent Chesley said at Monday’s meeting that a significant chunk of the budget’s increase is because of Delta Ambulance’s rising rates. The private ambulance provider will begin charging towns $25 per resident next year, after having provided emergency services free of charge until this year. China was one of five communities that joined an effort to negotiate a lower rate that fell flat in March.

“The ambulance service is losing their position. They’re struggling too,” Chesley said. “We did try to make an effort but we couldn’t get all the towns to join on.”


The cost of public safety is one of the biggest factors in China’s rising budget, Hapgood said. The town plans to allocate about $410,000 on public safety next year, up from around $340,000 this year.

Much of the cost comes from bolstered funding for the China and South China volunteer fire departments and increased costs for the Waterville Regional Communication Center, which processes China’s 911 calls, Hapgood said.

Firefighters respond to a fire last year in China. Select Board members on Monday approved a budget that increases funding for the China and South China volunteer fire departments. Morning Sentinel file

It’s still unclear just how much residents’ tax bills will rise this year as officials hash out the total costs of the county and school budgets, though board member Wayne Chadwick said he expects many residents to see significant increases.

“Everybody’s gonna love us when they get their tax bill next year,” he joked Monday.

China residents will have the opportunity to vote on the town and school budgets during the June 11 town meeting, which is being conducted by written ballot. Polls will be open at the China Town Office at 571 Lakeview Drive from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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