March 10, 2023
Annual Town Meeting set for April 3
By Gregory T. Federspiel
It is Annual Town Meeting time! Mark your calendars for the evening of April 3 where residents will gather at the Memorial School to consider some 20 articles this year. The official warrant with the articles can be found on the Town’s web site starting the week of the March 13th.
At the annual town meeting voters debate and approve the Town and School District operating and capital budgets along with various proposed initiatives and bylaw changes that are being presented. For the upcoming meeting on April 3 there is a little bit of everything to consider – new local option laws, amendments to our general bylaws and proposed amendments to our zoning regulations.
The Annual Report and the Finance Committee Report will be delivered to all households by the Scouts. Look for your delivery by March 26. Copies will also be available at Town Hall and on-line. The Annual Report contains summaries of the work conducted by Town Departments and our numerous boards and committees during the 2022 calendar year. The Annual Report provides a good summary of the major activities that took place and provide insights into the myriad topics that are being addressed. A significant amount of data about town operations is contained within the Report.
The Finance Committee Report provides an excellent overview of the Town’s financial condition and details the more pressing financial issues with which the Committee and the Select Board are dealing. The report contains information on the current status of efforts by both the Town and the School District to manage the remaining unfunded portions of our retiree health insurance liabilities and pension liabilities (we are on track to retire these liabilities by the early to mid-2030’s.) The full warrant is contained within the report listing each article and the recommendations by the Select Board and FinCom. Be sure to bring your copy of the Annual Report and the Finance Committee report with you to the ATM at the Memorial School.
Aside from the traditional money articles for both the School and the Town, there are a handful of articles seeking to implement new local provisions. One, Article 10, is a request from the Board of Health to create a new revolving fund for their vaccination clinics. In the past we have made a guestimate of the number of flu shots we might administer in the proposed budget. A better way is to set up a revolving account that allows the acceptance of reimbursements from insurance and other funds that from time to time become available for clinics and to pay the expenses for the clinics from these funds. (Hence the revolving nature of the fund – moneys spent are from the funds collected.) We currently have a similar fund for the programming provided by the Parks and Recreation Department.
If Article 12 is approved, Town Hall does not have to be open on a Saturday despite a state deadline falling on a weekend. For example, voter registration deadlines prior to a local election day often fall on a Saturday and yet, when we have been open no one has come in. On-line registration has provided a convenient alternative.
Article 13 asks voters to rescind current parking fines of $25 and to adopt another provision of state law that sets the parking fine at $50.
Article 14 seeks approval of a local option provided by the state that requires new construction of multi-unit housing (4 or more units) as well as lodging and boarding houses to install sprinkler systems. The Fire Department advocates for adoption of this new provision to provide an added measure of protection for those who reside in such structures.
If Article 15 is approved, the Select Board will be authorized to pursue aggregating the purchasing of electricity for all residents and businesses in town. Many communities have successfully pooled their purchasing power to save money on their electric bills as well as specify varying levels of “green” power options. Anyone who does not want to participate can opt out.
Article 16 seeks to establish provisions for allowing private water lines to be upgraded by the property owners and paid for through a betterment – that is, a special surcharge on one’s property tax. We currently allow betterments for sewer lines but water lines were not included at the time.
In the coming weeks leading up to the Annual Town Meeting I will provide more details about the warrant, including the budget proposals and proposed zoning amendments that will come before voters on April 3.