Friday, April 17, 2009
Guide to Town Meeting
In the “Citizen’s Guide to Town Meeting,” Massachusetts Secretary William Galvin calls Town Meeting “The purest form of democratic governing,” and adds, “In use for over 300 years and still today, it has proven to be a valuable means for many Massachusetts taxpayers to voice their opinions and directly effect change in their communities.” The following is a brief guide to Town Meeting in Carlisle.
Town – The form of government that applies to Massachusetts municipalities of fewer than 12,000 people. Requires a Town Meeting or town council. Most have Town Meeting.
Annual Town Meeting – Called by the Selectmen. By state law, one must be scheduled each year, and it must be held in the months from February to May unless there are special circumstances.
Special Town Meeting – As many as necessary are called by the Selectmen to take up business requiring immediate action that cannot wait for Annual Town Meeting. Can also be called by a petition of 200 voters.
Warrant – The agenda for Town Meeting. The Selectmen must issue the Warrant at least seven days in advance of Town Meeting.
Article – Individual pieces of business on the Warrant. No action can be taken at Town Meeting that isn’t an Article on the Warrant. Articles are usually sponsored by town committees, but a group of at least ten voters can insert an Article before the Warrant is closed.
Motion – The wording used when calling for a vote on an Article. Drafted just before Town Meeting and often contains the financial detail. It may be changed at Town Meeting.
Consent Agenda – A time-saving measure that groups several similar Articles under one vote.
Moderator – Town Meeting manager. Recognizes speakers, calls for motions, controls debate and announces outcome of votes.
Town Clerk - Records votes, takes minutes.
Attendee – Any member of the public is allowed to attend Town Meeting.
Voter – Any registered voter in the Town of Carlisle can vote on any Article.
Quorum – The minimum number of voters required to pass an Article. In Carlisle the number is 150.
Presenter – The committee sponsoring an Article may give a presentation before debate. The presentation is limited to eight minutes. Presenters who do not qualify as Carlisle-registered voters may speak at the discretion of the Moderator or a Town Meeting vote.
Debater – Any voter registered in Carlisle may speak to the Article under debate by stepping to a microphone and being recognized by the Moderator. Those who don’t qualify as Carlisle-registered voters may speak at the discretion of the Moderator or a Town Meeting vote.
Amendment – A suggested change to an Article from the floor given in writing to the Moderator and Town Clerk. It can then be moved for a vote and if passed, the debate continues on the Article as amended.
To move – An attempt to end debate and bring an Article to a vote.
Must be seconded and approved with a voice vote. Uses the wording of the motion.
Vote – Usually a voice vote of yea (yes) or nay (no). In some circumstances, a show of hands may be required and tellers will be dispatched to count the vote twice. Most Articles pass with a simple majority, but some financial transactions require two-thirds.
Contested vote – If six voters ask the Moderator for a recount, it must be granted.
Secret ballot – A secret ballot can be requested and must be approved by a motion to Town Meeting
Reconsideration – A vote can be reconsidered, or re-voted, upon request. A motion for reconsideration is made from the floor at any time and Town Meeting must agree to reconsider.
Town Election – Held once a year after Town Meeting to vote on elected positions and approve overrides and debt exclusions passed at Town Meeting.
Proposition 2½ - A Massachusetts law that limits budgetary increases to a “levy limit” representing a 2½% increase on existing tax bills plus any new taxes as a result of real estate growth (development, additions).
Levy limit – see above
Override – A vote to approve budgets over the limit of Proposition 2½.
Excluded debt – Debt commitment outside the Proposition 2½ limits.
Capital exclusion – Capital outlay outside the Proposition 2½ limits that does not involve debt. ∆
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