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Tips for Successful Town Meetings

Now that most have completed their Annual Town Meetings, it may be helpful to share techniques and processes that have been helpful in getting through the town’s business before losing a quorum. Here are some dos and don’ts that towns have found to be useful:

  • DO utilize consent agendas. You will save time if you consolidate non-controversial or recurrent warrant articles in one motion. The moderator should coordinate with the Select Board and the Finance Committee to determine what articles are best suited to inclusion in the consent agenda.

  • DON’T vote each and every line item of the budget. Doing so limits the town’s financial flexibility during the fiscal year. The law does not specify how a budget must be voted, so you may vote by department, general governmental topics (e.g., general governmental services), or even just the total number.

  • DO adopt a bylaw allowing the moderator to declare that a vote has passed by two-thirds without taking a count. The bylaw must be adopted pursuant to G.L. c. 39, § 15, but it will make voice voting go faster.

  • DON’T accept amendments to motions unless they are submitted in writing to the Moderator and the Town Clerk. The record of the meeting may be muddied if an oral amendment is passed, and then voters and town officials disagree on what the amendment changed.

You may have other suggestions on what has helped your town meeting to be most efficient. Please share them with us and we can include them in a future newsletter.


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