Profile | Select Board
The executive branch of our town's government
The executive branch of Massachusetts towns is the Select Board (in some towns, known as the Board of Selectmen). Our Select Board is made up of 5 members who each serve a three-year term, and they have a mosaic of responsibilities across the town.
The bulk of the Select Board’s work consists of executing on the operating budget approved by Town Meeting at our annual May meeting. As things come up (or proactively), the Select Board can advance articles to Town Meeting for a vote.
Here’s an example of this process in action: Recently, Burlington underwent a water study. The request to fund this study was advanced as a warrant article to Town Meeting, who approved the use of town funds for this purpose. The Select Board then executed on the article, coordinating the assessment with the appropriate entities.
The Select Board also ensures, once the budget is set, that the town has enough tax revenue to fund the budget. This is done in collaboration with the Assessor’s office, comparing the assessed value of the town with the budget to be sure the percentage is accurate.
The Select Board has its own discretionary budget for things like setting up and funding subcommittees, but for the most part anything to do with the town’s money needs to be approved by Town Meeting.
The Select Board also manages relationships with various stakeholders in the community, like utilities, businesses, etc.
Some other things the Select Board is responsible for:
Controlling liquor licenses
Anything to do with public (not Recreation Department) land, such as roadways or the Town Common
Creating policies that won’t affect bylaws – one such example is to allow remote participation in boards and committees, provided an in-person quorum is met
Administration of emergency services, public works, and building departments
In general, if it doesn’t have its own Board or Commission, it probably falls to the Select Board. On the flip side, though, if you don’t see it on this list, and if it involves an appropriation of money or a change to our bylaws, the Select Board likely cannot act upon it without an approved warrant article from Town Meeting.
If, for example, you think the town should be providing a certain service that it’s not providing, or you think there should be a law that doesn't already exist in our bylaws, then someone’s got to advance that as a warrant article and it needs to be approved at Town Meeting before it can be implemented by the Select Board.
So, while the Select Board is in some ways the face of the town, they are really limited in their power (by design! Hello, checks and balances!) and if a resident wants to see a change, they should look into the appropriate Board or Commission or team up with a Town Meeting Member to advance a warrant article.
Hopefully this has been helpful in understanding what our Select Board is and what it does. Be sure to read more about our local government in the Local Government section of the Buzz!