Weekly Buzz | Make Your Voice Heard This Week
Plus, will there be another hybrid Town Meeting this May?
Another week is beginning in Burlington, and this one’s gonna be a doozy. Town Meeting is just two weeks away, and all the Boards are wrapping up their business prior to presenting their warrant articles to representatives from each precinct at Town Meeting.
Since there’s so much to pay attention to, I’m going to do more talking up here than usual and less down there. So keep your eyes peeled on each day’s Daily Buzz for more details that don’t make it into today’s edition.
I’m going to start with a recap of Town Meeting and some updates about the May 9 meeting
What is Town Meeting?
Town Meeting is how we get most things done in Burlington. We have 126 elected representatives (18 from each of our 7 precincts, serving staggered 3-year terms) who convene in January, May, and September to do things like approve departmental budgets, establish and amend our town bylaws, and approve capital expenditures.
Read much more in my profile of Town Meeting.
What happens at May Town Meeting?
May Town Meeting, while scheduled for the second Monday in May, rarely (never?) takes just one night. In May, we set the budget for the coming fiscal year, and so in addition to warrant articles about bylaws and capital expenditures, we review and vote on every single department’s budget (except the School Department). If TM doesn’t finish in one night, we continue on Wednesdays and Mondays until it’s concluded; last year I believe we took 3 sessions, but I could be making that up. A lot has happened since then.
So, that’s why you’ve seen me talk about all the committees who are in charge of budget planning for the coming year - All those Ways & Means Subcommittees that have been meeting have been preparing for this Town Meeting. And Boards like the Planning Board, Zoning Bylaw Review Committee, Land Use Committee, and Conservation Commission have been meeting as well, to decide on the finalized versions of additions and amendments they propose making to the relevant bylaws.
All that will be reviewed by Town Meeting Members (and all residents, if they choose!) between now and May 9, and then we’ll convene to hear presentations, ask questions, and vote.
How will Town Meeting convene this time?
After 2 years of remote and hybrid meetings, rumbles had recently been circulating that TM would be fully in person this time around. However, this week, the Select Board has an agenda item before them to allow hybrid participation. This determination is up to our Town Moderator, and it seems with COVID numbers rising and many community members concerned about the risk of spread presented by an in-person meeting, the plan is for a hybrid meeting once more.
In-person Town Meetings are required by state law, and we have been granted this option (with discretion of Town Moderator) only through July of this year. If the town wanted to allow permanent hybrid participation, as we have done with many Boards in town, lobbying would be required at the state level.
How can you be involved in Town Meeting?
Many residents have been involved already - I’ve received several emails advocating for or against items like the establishment of the Town Center Multifamily Zone or the amendment to the stormwater management bylaw. That’s what we’re here for. Your Town Meeting Members can be contacted with input regarding warrant articles, and I strenuously encourage you to reach out if you have input on any of the articles up for consideration.
But how do you know what’s up for consideration? Simple. Just take a look here at the warrant and the backup. These are 2 separate documents, where the warrant has just the articles, and the backup has the reasoning and support for each article. This time around we have a lot of budgety things to look at, in the form of spreadsheets that make your eyes cross, but the backup is also known for having things like diagrams, plot plans, letters, presentations, etc. that help TMMs understand why the articles are being presented. If you’ve got an opinion, reach out to your Precinct representatives. Don’t know what precinct you’re in? You can use the interactive map at the link above to figure it out.
School Department Budget
Phew. Okay, now that the Town Meeting stuff is out of the way, this one will be brief.
Remember how I mentioned Town Meeting gets to review all the departmental budgets except the School Department? The School Committee reviews and approves the School Department budget, and Town Meeting only gets to approve the total number, rather than looking at each line item.
So this week, in addition to the regular School Committee meeting business on Tuesday, there will be a public hearing regarding the FY23 budget. The School Committee will be discussing and voting on the overall budget and also the capital warrant articles. If you have input on the School Department Budget, this is your time to have your voice heard.
Just a quick list today, with more detail to come in each Daily Buzz.
Monday, April 25
12:00 PM - Disability Access Commission
6:00 PM - Select Board
Tuesday, April 26
8:00, 9:00, and 9:30 AM - various Ways & Means Subcommittee meetings
5:30 PM - Zoning Bylaw Review Sign Subcommittee
6:00 PM - Shawsheen Facilities Subcommittee
7:00 PM - Board of Health
7:00 PM - School Committee
7:30 PM - Shawsheen School Committee
Wednesday April 27
6:15 PM - Burlington Scholarship Fund
6:30 PM - Ways & Means DPW/Recreation Subcommittee
7:00 PM - Ways & Means
7:30 PM - Burlington Housing Partnership Townwide Forum
Thursday, April 28
5:30 PM - Ways & Means School Subcommittee
7:00 PM - Conservation Commission
Friday, April 29
Nothing official yet!
Again, I’ll update each day’s email with more info about each meeting, but at least now you have an idea of what’s ahead.
Have a great week!
Thanks for sharing all that information about how our town works. Did you happen to run across the time restraint that town meeting has between sessions? For some reason I want to say 120 days between sessions by state law.
This article was extremely informative. I have lived in town over 50 years and am just learning about how things get done. Shame on me.
You provide a wonderful service.