The patriotic song America was written in 1831 by Samuel Francis Smith while attending the Andover Theological Seminary. Andover is often referred to as the "Home of America".
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Town Meeting

Understanding Town Meeting:

If you need further information, you can contact the Town Clerk or Town Manager. An ombudsman is present at all Town Meetings to assist voters in wording amendments and answer questions on procedures.


Overview

The Town of Andover has an Open Town Meeting form of government meaning that any registered voter may vote at Town Meeting. Andover's Town Charter also includes an appointed Town Manager, and the following elected offices: five member Board of Selectmen, five member School Committee, a Moderator, a five member Housing Authority, a five member Punchard Free School Trustee Board and a member of the Regional Vocational School.

Town Meeting is the legislative body of the Town. It convenes, at least annually at the time and place designated by the Selectmen. Town Meeting considers and adopts an annual operating budget.  It also considers and acts upon other matters which require Town Meeting action such as zoning changes, street acceptances, by-law additions and amendments.   The business of each Town Meeting is contained in a document known as "the Warrant" which includes all matters on which the Town will act. The Warrant is published in at least one local paper and mailed to all registered voters within a Finance Committee Report in advance of the Town Meeting.  Articles are inserted in the Warrant by the Board of Selectmen and by Citizen Petition. The order is determined by the Selectmen.

Town Meeting is unique to New England. We hope that the following information will help you become an informed participant in this basic democratic process that is our legislative form of government.

Town Meeting Procedures

How to place an article on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant

A private article may be submitted for inclusion on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant on petition of ten (10) registered voters of the Town. The Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting is opened and closed by the Board of Selectmen. The Warrant is typically open from early November through late January. Please contact the Town Clerk's Office for the precise dates for the current year. Petitions for private warrant articles are submitted to the Town Clerk's Office for certification of signatures.

After the articles have been placed on the Warrant, the articles go through a series of committee and department reviews and hearings. Different boards and committees are responsible for a report at Town Meeting of their findings depending on whose jurisdiction the article will fall under.

For instance, all money articles are reviewed by the Finance Committee at hearings that take place after the closing of the Warrant. A report on their findings are given at Town Meeting when the article is addressed. Residents are welcome to attend these hearings to explain their article to the committee. More discussion will be generated on the floor of Town Meeting before any action is taken by the Town Meeting members.

How to place an article on a Special Town Meeting Warrant

From time to time, the Selectmen may call a Special Town Meeting. Special Town Meetings are called for limited purposes. These meetings, because of the nature of the articles, are usually called over a shorter period of time and the Warrant is not open as long.

To place an article on an upcoming Special Town Meeting Warrant, the signatures of one hundred (100) registered voters of the Town are required, but otherwise follows the procedures above.

Voters may petition the Selectmen to call a Special Town Meeting and to insert in the Warrant all subjects specified in the petition. This requires the signatures of two hundred (200) registered voters of the Town, but otherwise follows the procedures above.

How to enter Town Meeting Hall

Town Meetings are usually held on the campus of Andover High School on Shawsheen Road in the Collins Center for the Performing Arts Auditorium. Registered voters may enter the hall after receiving a meeting member sticker from their precinct election official. Each registered voter that attends Town Meeting must have their name crossed off the voter list before he/she can enter the hall.

Those not registered to vote may attend the meeting but may not vote. They must sign in with an election official before entering the meeting. The Moderator will take a vote of the meeting to allow non registered voters to enter the hall. All non registered voters who are not Town Officials will sit in a special section of the Hall so as not to interfere with the voting process.

How to move a Warrant article at Town Meeting

All warrant articles, including private warrant articles, must be moved by a registered voter on the floor of Town Meeting. Articles are taken up in the order they appear in the Warrant. For each meeting there is always a final date for voter registration to enable residents of the Town who are not already voters to register to vote so they may attend and vote at the meeting. Contact the Town Clerk's Office for voter registration details or check with this website and your local newspapers.

How to be recognized to speak

A voter may be recognized by standing and saying, "Mister/Madam Moderator."  Before making any remarks the speaker must give his or her name and address.

How to make a motion and amend an article

Amendments must be presented to the Moderator in writing (three copies). After discussion on the amendment the Moderator calls for a vote on the amendment only. If passed the original motion as amended is voted upon. Amendments to amendments are usually ruled out of order. Motions or amendments which differ materially from that printed in the Warrant must be given to the voters in writing at the time of consideration, or shown on a screen readable by all voters. Motions to table are used rarely.

Budget questions - Questions on the budget are encouraged. A voter may address the Moderator on any line item in the finance committee report. Amendments can be offered and will be voted on individually.

Declaring the Vote - The Moderator may decide the sense of the meeting by a voice vote. If in doubt, or, if the decision is questioned, a standing vote may be called for. Depending on the subject matter, a motion may only require a simple majority to pass, or it may require a 2/3 or even greater vote to pass.

Privileged Motions - A speaker may be interrupted only for a point of order, a question of the legality of a motion, or a question to clarify information.

Reconsideration - Reconsideration is rarely used and only to correct an oversight or an illegality

Visual Displays - Voters who wish to show slides or present other visual material should make arrangements before the meeting. Contact the Town Clerk's Office for additional information.

Adjourn / Dissolve - A meeting may adjourn to a later time and a different place, but when a meeting is dissolved it is finished. A meeting may not be dissolved until every article in the Warrant has been acted upon.

Pro/Con Microphones - The Moderator will sometimes call for the use of Pro/Con Microphones to help organize the debate on controversial articles.

Time Limits - A motion could be made at the opening of Town Meeting to limit the time for presentations to five (5) minutes and speakers to the article three (3) minutes (or any combination thereof). A motion for time limits is usually made to cover the entire duration of the meeting. It is generally a good idea to use this as a guide for any presentations to Town Meeting members.

By-Laws Relating to Town Meeting

Town Meeting Schedule - The Annual Town Meeting for the election of officers shall be held on the fourth Tuesday in March, each year. Andover has regularly adjourned its Town Meeting after the election to a later time for consideration of the rest of the Warrant. Special Town Meetings may be held at such times and places as the Selectmen may designate. Any meeting may be adjourned from time to time to any place in the Town.

Warrants - Attested copies of the Warrant shall be posted in or on the Town Office Building in such other public places as the Selectmen may designate and in at least one newspaper of general circulation within the Town fourteen days or more before the date of the meeting.

Annual Town Report - At least seven days before the annual meeting the Town Manager shall make available to all registered voters an annual report. A summary of the report shall be delivered to each Andover household at least seven days before the Annual Meeting, or may be included in the Finance Committee's Report.

Vote by Ballot - A motion for a secret ballot is in order and requires approval of 25% of those voting.

Admission of other than registered voters - Only Andover residents who are registered voters are allowed in the voting sections of Town Meeting. Unregistered voters and non residents may request admission by submitting their names and addresses to the Moderator through election officials at the entrance of Town Meeting. They may be admitted by a majority vote of those present. The Moderator shall designate a place set apart from the general assembly where such persons may sit. The Moderator shall also set apart a space where accredited representatives of the press shall sit.

Who's Who At Town Meeting

Town Meeting Members - All registered voters may participate in Andover's Open Town Meeting. Participants display prominently ribbons or badges which are given out at the beginning of the meeting and returned at its conclusion.

The Moderator - presides over and conducts the meeting. He/She is an elected official.

Town Clerk - Is the chief election official, custodian of the Town's records, and recording secretary of the meeting.

Board of Selectmen - (5) Elected policy making body, appoints Town Manager and compiles the Warrant.

Town Manager - Appointed by the Board of Selectmen, the Manager prepares the budget and submits it to the Selectmen and the Finance Committee on or before a date certain. A voter may direct questions to the Manager relating to the budget or to warrant articles.

Finance Director - Has primary responsibility for the budget, reports to the Town Manager, and is an information resource at the meeting.

Finance Committee - (9) Appointed by the Moderator, it reviews the budget, makes recommendations on all financial matters, prepares and distributes to all Andover households a printed report of its recommendations and other relevant information, to assist Town Meeting in making final decisions.

School Committee - (5) Elected and responsible for the operation of the educational system, prepares the school budget, appoints the Superintendent, and defines educational philosophy and policy.

Superintendent of Schools - Chief executive officer for implementing school committee policy and directives.

Town Counsel - Chief legal officer and legal advisor to the Town Meeting.

Planning Board - (5) Appointed by the Manager with the approval of the Board of Selectmen, it advises Town Meeting on a range of planning and zoning matters.

Conservation Commission - (7) Appointed by the Manager as custodian of Town owned conservation land. It recommends land acquisitions to the Meeting.

Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational School  - (1) Member elected as Andover representative to that school's committee. Explains Andover's share of operating costs.

Budget Terms Used At Town Meeting

Budget - A financial plan for a given period of time embodying both estimates of proposed expenditures and the proposed means of financing them.

Fiscal Year - Cities and towns in Massachusetts operate on a fiscal year which begins July 1 and ends June 30. The number of the fiscal year is the calendar year when it ends.

Levy Limit - Under Proposition 2 1/2  the maximum amount that a community can raise in property taxes is 2.5% more than the maximum it was allowed to raise for the prior fiscal year plus growth revenue.

Growth Revenue - The amount of property tax revenue a community can add to its tax levy by taxing new construction. It is computed using the prior year's tax rate.

Excess Levy Capacity - The difference between a community's maximum tax levy limit and the amount it actually levies in property taxes.

Free Cash - The amount of surplus revenue over and above uncollected taxes as of July 1 of each year as certified by the State. It is available for appropriation by Town Meeting.

Overlay - The overlay is the amount raised by the Assessors independently of Town Meeting as permitted by law for the purpose of creating a fund to cover property tax abatements and avoid fractions in the tax rate.

Reserve Fund - The fund established by the voters at Annual Town Meeting for extraordinary or unforeseen expenditures. Transfers from the Reserve Fund require the approval of the Finance Committee.

Cherry Sheet - Named for the cherry colored paper on which the Massachusetts Department of Revenue traditionally printed it on, the cherry sheet details the estimated state aid to be received by the Town along with the County and State assessments to be paid.

Conservation Fund - The fund established by Town Meeting several years ago for the purpose of acquiring land for conservation purposes. The Town has made periodic appropriations to the fund. The fund is administered by the Conservation Commission.

Compensation Fund - A reserve for salary adjustments that may occur during the fiscal year. Transfers from the Compensation Fund require the approval of the Board of Selectmen.

Override - A referendum procedure in which a community by popular vote can either increase its levy limit (general override) or collect property taxes in excess of its levy limit to finance specific capital expenditures (debt exclusion or capital outlay exclusion overrides).

Town Meeting Warrants and Results

Resources