A town meeting is a meeting where an entire geographic area is invited to participate in a gathering, often for a political, administrative, or legislative purpose. Traditionally, a town meeting is a time when community members come together to legislate policy and budgets for their town. However, politicians in the United States have been using the term to represent a forum for voters to ask questions.
Town meeting is a form of local government practiced in the U. Local governments are administrative offices that are smaller than a State. S. region of New England since colonial times, and in some western states since at least the late 19th century. History See also History of New England New England's earliest inhabitants were Algonquian -speaking Native Americans including the  Typically conducted by New England towns, town meeting can also refer to meetings of other governmental bodies, such as school districts or water districts. The New England town is the basic unit of local government in each of the six New England states School districts are a form of Special-purpose district which serves to operate the local public primary and secondary schools While the uses and laws vary from state to state, the general form is for residents of the town or school district to gather once a year and act as a legislative body, voting on operating budgets, laws and other matters for the community's operation over the following 12 months. A legislature is a type of representative Deliberative assembly with the power to create amend and change Laws The law created by a legislature is called Legislation
Its usage in the English language can also cause confusion. Town meeting is both an event, as in "Freetown had its town meeting last Tuesday" and an entity, as in "Last Tuesday, Town Meeting decided to repave Howland Road. " Starting with Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign in 1976, "town meeting" has also been used as a label for any moderated discussion group in which a large audience is invited, as in "John Kerry held a town meeting with voters to discuss issues in the upcoming election. James Earl "Jimmy" Carter Jr (born October 1 1924 was the thirty-ninth President of the United States, serving from 1977 to 1981 and the recipient of the 2002 " To avoid confusion, this sort of event is often called a "town hall meeting. A town hall meeting is an informal public meeting derived from the traditional Town meetings of New England. "
Connecticut shares the Town Meeting form of government used by many other New England communities. They differ from Massachusetts and the northern tier of states in being more tightly bound to the published agenda -- in Connecticut, the Town Meeting may discuss, but not alter, an article placed before them; nor may they place new items on the agenda. If a Town Meeting rejects a budget, a new Town Meeting must be called to consider the next proposed budget. State Law allows the Board of Selectmen to adopt an estimated tax rate and continue operating based on the previous budget in the event a Town Meeting hasn't adopted a new budget in time.
They also do not exercise the scope of legislative powers as is typically seen in Massachusetts; for example, while many Massachusetts towns adopt and modify land-use and building zoning regulations at Town Meeting, in Connecticut the Town Meeting would have "adopted zoning" as a concept for the town, however the actual writing and adopting of specific regulations fall to an elected Planning & Zoning Board created by the adoption of zoning.
A moderator is chosen at each meeting. Meetings are typically held in school auditoriums, however they may be moved to larger venues as needed. Town meetings can physically meet in another town if necessary to find a proper space to host the attendance; and they have been known to take advantage of a pleasant spring evening to adjourn outside to conduct business! Votes are taken by voice, and if close by show of hands. Meetings on controversial topics are often adjourned to a referendum conducted by machine vote on a date in the future. Such adjournment may come from the floor of the meeting, or by a petition for a paper or machine ballot filed before the meeting.
In towns with an Open Town Meeting, all registered voters of a town, and all persons owning at least $1,000 of taxable property, are eligible to participate in and vote at Town Meetings, with the exception of the election of officials. Representative Town Meetings used by some larger towns consist solely of a large number of members elected to office. Some towns utilize a so-called Financial Town Meeting, where the an Open Town Meeting exists with limited jurisdiction to only vote on financial affairs and the town's legislative powers have been vested in a Town Council.
In Maine, the town meeting system originated during the period Maine was a district of Massachusetts. The State of Maine ( is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean Districts are a type of Administrative division, in some countries managed by a Local government. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts ( is a state located in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Most cities and towns operate under the town meeting form of government or a modified version of it. Maine annual town meetings traditionally are held in March. Special town meetings also may be called from time to time.
The executive agency of town government is an elected, part-time board, known as the Board of Selectmen or Select Board, having three, five or seven members. In Political science and Constitutional law, the executive is the branch of government responsible for the day-to-day management of the State. An election is a Decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold formal office The Board of Selectmen is commonly the executive arm of Town Governments in the New England region of the United States. Between sessions the board of selectmen interprets the policy set at Town Meeting and is assigned numerous duties including: approving all town non-school expenditures, authorizing highway construction and repair, serving as town purchasing agent for non-school items, issuing licenses and overseeing the conduct of all town activities. A policy is a deliberate plan of action to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome(s * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Before adding any more images to this * * page please do carefully consider * * whether they would be mere decoration * * or actually improve The verb license or grant license means to give permission The noun license is the document demonstrating that permission Often the part-time selectmen also serve as town assessors, overseers of the poor as well as road commissioners. Generally, there are other elected town officers whose duties are specified in law. These may include clerk, assessors, tax collector, treasurer, school committee, constables, and others.
In 1927, the town of Camden adopted a special charter and became the first Maine town to apply the manager concept to the town meeting-selectmen framework. Camden is a town in Knox County, Maine, United States. The population was 5254 at the 2000 census In the council-manager form of government an elected city council (typically between five and 11 people is responsible for making Policy, passing Ordinances voting Appropriations Under this system, the manager is administrative head of town government, responsible to the select board for the administration of all departments under its control. The manager's duties include acting as purchasing agent, seeing that laws and ordinances are enforced, making appointments and removals, and fixing the compensation of appointees. (See also: Council-manager government)
From 1927 to 1939, eleven other Maine towns adopted special act town meeting-selectmen-manager charters similar to the Camden charter. In the council-manager form of government an elected city council (typically between five and 11 people is responsible for making Policy, passing Ordinances voting Appropriations Today, 135 Maine towns have the town meeting-selectmen-manager system, while 209 use the town meeting-selectman system.
In Massachusetts, towns with fewer than 6,000 residents may only adopt an open town meeting form of government. An Open town meeting is a form of municipal legislature typical in the New England region of the United States. Massachusetts towns with 6,000 or more residents may optionally adopt a representative town meeting form of government. A representative town meeting is a form of municipal legislature particularly common in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont  The Board of Selectmen summons the town meeting into existence by issuing the warrant, which is the list of items--known as articles--to be voted on, with descriptions of each article. The Board of Selectmen is commonly the executive arm of Town Governments in the New England region of the United States. The Moderator officiates the meeting by reading each article, explaining it, and making sure the rules of parliamentary procedure are followed, interprets voice votes and counts other votes. The Finance Committee or Ways and Means Committee makes recommendations on articles dealing with money, and often drafts the proposed budget. The Town Clerk serves as the clerk of the meeting by recording its results. A town clerk is a senior Employee of a City, Borough, or Town administration Town Counsel makes legal recommendations on all articles of the warrant, to ensure town meeting is acting lawfully. All registered voters are free to attend and vote on any and all articles.
Massachusetts Towns having at least 6,000 residents may adopt a Representative Town Meeting system through the normal charter-change process. A representative town meeting is a form of municipal legislature particularly common in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont A city charter or town charter (generically municipal charter) is a legal Document establishing a Municipality such as a City or Representative Town Meetings function largely the same as an Open Town Meeting, except that not all registered voters can vote. An Open town meeting is a form of municipal legislature typical in the New England region of the United States. The townspeople instead elect Town Meeting Members by precinct to represent them and to vote on the issues for them, much like a U. S. Representative votes on behalf of his/her constituents in Congress. The United States House of Representatives is one of the two chambers of the United States Congress; the other is the Senate. Depending on population, a town may have anywhere from 45 to 240 Town Meeting Members. Framingham, the largest town in the state by population, has 216 representatives in Town Meeting, twelve from each precinct. Framingham is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. A precinct is a space enclosed by the walls or other boundaries of a particular place or building or by an arbitrary and imaginary line drawn around it
Annual Town Meetings are held in the spring, and may also be known as the Annual Budget Meeting. They are supposed be held between February 1 and May 31, but may be delayed until June 30. Events 1327 - Teenaged Edward III is crowned King of England, but the country is ruled by his mother Queen Events 1279 BC - Rameses II (The Great (19th dynasty becomes pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Events 350 - Roman usurper Nepotianus, of the Constantinian dynasty, is defeated and killed by troops of the Usurper (Town fiscal years start on July 1. A fiscal year (or financial year, or sometimes budget year) is a period used for calculating annual ("yearly" Financial statements in Businesses "July 1st" redirects here For the Ayumi Hamasaki song see H (song. ) At this meeting, the town takes care of any housecleaning it has left before the end of the current fiscal year, and prepares itself to enter the new fiscal year by approving a budget. It may also vote on non-budgetary issues on the warrant, including the town's general and zoning bylaws.
An article may be placed on the warrant by the Selectmen, sometimes at the request of town departments, or by a petition signed by at least ten registered voters of the town.
Special Town Meetings are held whenever necessary, usually to deal with financial or other pertinent issues that develop between Annual Town Meetings. They function the same as an Annual Town Meeting, only the number of signatures required on a petition rises to 100. While the Selectmen generally call such a meeting, voters may call one through petition, and the number of signatures required on a petition to call a Special Town Meeting is 200 or 20% of the registered voters, whichever number is lower. The Selectmen have 45 days from the date of receiving such a petition to hold a Special Town Meeting. They are extremely important in finding something to do with the towns issues.
Joint Town Meetings are an extremely rare form of town meeting. When two or more towns share an operating budget for something, the governing body of that entity will typically issue each town an assessment for its operation. The town then includes its assessment as part of its budget.
If Town Meeting in one town votes to approve its assessment based on the figures provided, and Town Meeting in another town votes a lesser figure than it was assessed, the disagreement becomes problematic. (For example, if X-town and Y-town run a high school together, and the total operating cost of the high school is $4,500,000, and X-town sends 51% of the school's students, X-town would be assessed $2,295,000 and Y-town would be assessed $2,205,000. An issue arises when X-town votes $2,295,000 and Y-town only votes $2,100,000. )
If the issue cannot be resolved, the governing body may call a meeting of all registered voters from all towns involved: a Joint Town Meeting. The action of the Joint Town Meeting is binding for all involved communities. When three or more towns are involved, the name often changes from Joint Town Meeting to Regional Town Meeting.
In 2003, the communities of Freetown and Lakeville, Massachusetts held their annual town meetings and voted on the budget for the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District as part of those meetings. Freetown is a town in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States. Lakeville is a town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States. Freetown voters approved a budget that reduced their contribution by $100,000 from what the Regional School Committee asked for, thus requiring Lakeville to lower their contribution proportionally. Lakeville voters instead approved the amount the Regional School Committee asked for, which would require Freetown to go back and approve the extra $100,000.
When the towns could not agree, the Regional School Committee, as governing body of the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District, called a joint town meeting of voters from Freetown and Lakeville to agree on a single regional school budget. The meeting voted in favor of the amount originally requested, which required Freetown to give the additional $100,000 it had held back.
The Massachusetts Constitution (in Amendment LXXXIX, which governs the respective powers of municipalities and the state legislature) makes a distinction between a "city form of government" and a "town form of government". The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the fundamental governing document of the United States Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In recent years, a number of communities have chosen to adopt a home-rule charter under this Amendment which specifies a city form of government while retaining the style "Town of X," calling their legislative bodies "Town Council," and so on. Home rule refers to a demand that constituent parts of a state be given greater self-government within the greater administrative purview of the central government A style of office, or honorific, is a term which by Tradition or Law precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or Title, or to the (The Constitution does not require any specific nomenclature. ) In special legislation, these places are sometimes described as "the city known as the town of X". Special legislation (also called local legislation) is a legal term of art used in the United States which refers to acts of a state legislature which apply
The Town Meeting form of government is a mandatory part of being considered a town under state law; cities do not have town meetings. However, as noted, the official style of a city or town is defined in its charter, and there is no legal barrier to cities calling themselves "town" or vice versa. As a result, not all of the municipalities that are entitled Town of _____ have a Town Meeting legislative body. (Only communities with a population of at least 12,000 may adopt a city form of government. )
Common practice distinguishes between a "town meeting" (with an article), which may refer to any such gathering, even if municipal business is not the subject, and "Town Meeting" (never an article), which always refers to the legislative governing body of a town.
In New Hampshire, towns, cities, unincorporated places and villages, and school districts have the option of two main types of annual meeting: Traditional meetings or ballot-vote meetings, known informally as "SB 2" or "Senate Bill 2. New Hampshire ( is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. In Law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not a part of any Municipality. " Each political subdivision can choose their form of meeting.
Traditional Town Meetings, or Open Meetings, are held annually on the second Tuesday of March to choose town officers and the transaction of all other town business. Town selectmen are also permitted to call special town meetings as warranted, although these must be approved by a judge. The Board of Selectmen is commonly the executive arm of Town Governments in the New England region of the United States. Town meetings are prohibited, by state law, from being held on the biennial election day, which is typically held in November to elect county, state and national officials.
A town moderator is allowed under state law to adjourn a meeting that has run for a very long period and reconvene it at a later date, usually one week from the date of the meeting, and usually in the same location, in order to finish the town's business.
The SB 2 form of government was instituted by the state legislature in 1995 because of concerns that modern lifestyles had made it difficult for people to attend traditional town meetings. Residents vote in an SB 2 election at a polling place throughout the day. They may also vote by absentee ballot. Municipalities that have adopted the SB 2 form of government may switch back to the traditional town meeting form by a 3/5 majority vote.
Under SB 2, a first session, called a "Deliberative Session," is held about a month prior to the town election. This session is similar in many ways to the traditional town meeting. However, unlike the town meeting, while the wording and dollar amounts of proposed ballot measures may be amended, no actual voting on the merits of the proposals takes place. The second session, held on a set election day, is when issues such as the town's budget and other measures, known as warrant articles, are voted upon.
When adopting SB 2, towns or school districts may hold elections on the second Tuesday in March, the second Tuesday in April, or the second Tuesday in May. The election dates may be changed by majority vote. If a vote is taken to approve the change of the local elections, the date becomes effective the following year.
In 2002, according to the University of New Hampshire Center for Public Policy studies, 171 towns in New Hampshire had traditional town meeting, while 48 had SB 2. University of New Hampshire ( UNH) is a public university in the University System of New Hampshire (USNH United States. Another 15 municipalities, most of them incorporated cities, had no annual meeting. The study found that 102 school districts had traditional town meeting, 64 had SB2 meeting and 10 had no annual meeting.
Because traditional-meeting communities tend to be smaller, only one-third of the state's population was governed by traditional town meetings in 2002, and only 22 percent by traditional school-district meetings.
The Official Ballot Town Council is a variant form of the Town Council, in which certain items are to be placed on the ballot to be voted on by the registered voters. A town council is a democratically elected form of government for small municipalities or Parishes A council may serve as both the representative and executive branch This process mimics the SB 2 process, except that the Town Council makes the determination of what items will go on the ballot.
The Budgetary Town Meeting is a variation of the Open Meeting, but only the annual town operating budget as presented by the governing body can be voted on by the registered voters. When a town charter provides for a Budgetary Town Meeting also must establish the procedures for the transfer of funds among various departments, funds, accounts and agencies as may be necessary during the year.
State law also allows for a Representative Town Meeting, similar to that of a Town Council, although as of 2006 the practice is not used by a town or school district in New Hampshire. A representative town meeting is a form of municipal legislature particularly common in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont A town council is a democratically elected form of government for small municipalities or Parishes A council may serve as both the representative and executive branch Voters elect a small number of residents to act as the legislative body instead of them, however no town in the state has done so. Representative Town Meetings follow the same procedure and address the same issues as traditional town meetings, except they cannot consider matters which state law or the charter states must be placed on the official ballot of the town.
Moderators are elected to two-year terms on even years in towns and are elected in city wards at every other city election. The moderator's duties include presiding over town meetings, regulating the business thereof, deciding questions of order, making public declarations of each vote passed, and prescribing rules of proceeding which may be altered by the town as need.
The moderator also has the authority to postpone and reschedule the deliberative session or voting day of the meeting to another reasonable date, place, and time certain in the case of a weather emergency in which the moderator reasonably believes the roads to be hazardous or unsafe.
Due to a change in the state's constitution, Rhode Island municipalities have a greater degree of home rule compared to the other New England states. Home rule refers to a demand that constituent parts of a state be given greater self-government within the greater administrative purview of the central government History See also History of New England New England's earliest inhabitants were Algonquian -speaking Native Americans including the Like Connecticut, a few towns utilize a so-called Financial Town Meeting, where the an Open Town Meeting exists with limited jurisdiction to only vote on financial affairs and the town's legislative powers have been vested in a Town Council. An Open town meeting is a form of municipal legislature typical in the New England region of the United States. The direct democracy tradition is now uncommon in Rhode Island.
Town Meeting Day (the first Tuesday in March) is a state holiday. Most organized towns operate under the general statutes requiring an annual town meeting on that day or, optionally, on preceding days if the voters so choose. The purpose of town meeting is to elect municipal officers, approve annual budgets and conduct any other business. All cities and some towns in Vermont operate under charters instead of general legislation (see special legislation). Vermont ( is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. Special legislation (also called local legislation) is a legal term of art used in the United States which refers to acts of a state legislature which apply The cities and chartered towns, except for South Burlington, are required by the terms of their charters to hold an annual town meeting, on Town Meeting Day. South Burlington is a city in Chittenden County, Vermont, in the United States. Many towns vote on matters of substance (e. g. budgets, elected officials, etc. ) by Secret ballot. The secret ballot is a voting method in which a Voter 's choices are confidential However, there is no state law that requires towns to vote by Australian ballot; several towns still conduct all business "from the floor".
Cities and towns are governed by either a city council or a selectboard. They are fully empowered to act on most issues and are generally referred to as the municipality's Legislative Body. But all town budgets (and those of other independent taxing authorities) must be approved by plebiscite; explaining the local government's budget request to the voters is the principal business of Town Meeting. A referendum (plural referendums or referenda) ballot question, or plebiscite (from Latin plebiscita Voters at Town Meeting may also vote on non-binding resolutions, and may place items on the ballot for the following year's meeting.
There is no general requirement for chartered municipalities to observe Town Meeting or to put their budgets to plebiscite. When the Town of South Burlington was re-chartered as the City of South Burlington in 1971, the new charter provided for city elections in April and required only budget increases of 10% or more per annum to be placed before voters. Year 1971 ( MCMLXXI) was a Common year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar of the 1971 Gregorian calendar. No other municipality has been granted such a charter by the legislature, and there is strong sentiment against making future exceptions.
Employers in the state often give their employees time off, or at least give the employees the option of leaving early/coming in late, in order to attend their home town's Town Meeting. Universities often also give their students the day off from class so that they may go to Town Meeting to learn more about local issues and government.
Moderators are elected to one-year terms in towns. The moderator's duties include reviewing the "warning" (published agenda) for the town meeting, presiding over town meetings, deciding questions of order, making public declarations of each vote passed, and prescribing rules of proceeding. 
Towns in several western states and counties also practice town meeting, though generally with more limited powers. Michigan was the first western state to adopt the town meeting system, but it was initially very restricted in its function. Michigan ( is a Midwestern state of the United States of America. Minnesota has a well established tradition. Minnesota ( Native Americans demonstrated the name to early settlers
The best-known example of the town meeting system of government was to be found in the Basque Country of northern Spain in the Middle Ages. Spain () or the Kingdom of Spain (Reino de España is a country located mostly in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Known as the anteiglesia (literally "in front of the church" from the Latin ante - and not anti) all the residents of a town would meet outside the door of the largest church and vote on local matters. They would also elect a sindico to represent them in the regional assembly. The village or town was divided into cofradías, which dealt with day-to-day administration in each of the town's parishes.
The system was revived in the municipality of Iurreta, Vizcaya in 1990. Iurreta is a town and Municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the autonomous community of Basque Country, northern Spain.
Town meetings are the usual legislative body of the smaller municipalities of Switzerland, that is of approximately 90 % of all Swiss municipalities. Municipalities (sometimes called communities or communes, after the French/Italian names are the smallest government division in Switzerland and are called The meetings are usually held twice a year. They must not be confused with the Landsgemeinde, the meeting that functions as legislative body in certain cantons of Switzerland. The Landsgemeinde ( German literally translated "community of the country" is one of the oldest and purest forms of Direct democracy. The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the states of the Federal state of Switzerland.
The fictional Springfield of The Simpsons television show has frequent town meetings, as does the fictional town of Stars Hollow from the CW's Gilmore Girls. Springfield is the fictional city in which the animated American sitcom The Simpsons is set Stars Hollow is a fictional Town (population 9973 in the US state of Connecticut that is the setting for the CW series Gilmore Girls Gilmore Girls was an Emmy Award -winning Golden Globe -nominated American Comedy-drama series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Bryan, Frank M. , Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How it Works, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Zuckerman, Michael, 'The Social Context of Democracy in Massachusetts,' William and Mary Quarterly 25 (1968).